Category Archives: In The News

Originally published on People’s Pundit Daily on Oct. 22, 2017.

When most think of the Long Island Sound, they picture a paradisal cut-out of communities between the eastern shores of Bronx County, New York City, and southern Westchester County. But in one of America’s wealthiest small cities, hidden health dangers breed and flourish in man-made rainwater basins and un-permitted sewage pits.

Hen Island is located less than 500 feet off the shores of Rye and serves as the not-so isolated location of summer, primitive-living cottages. Residents do not rely on modern plumbing, instead collecting and storing untreated rainwater for domestic use. Human waste for years has been dumped in sewage pits, which are located only feet away from the shoreline of the pristine Long Island Sound.

In Milton Harbor, the island is just off the mouths of Mamaroneck and Rye harbors. It is owned and operated by Kuder Island Colony Inc., but regulated by the City of Rye and Westchester County. The 34 primitive cottages on the island have enjoyed exemption from federal, state and local sanitation regulations requiring residents to use potable municipal water sources–which consequently, are already available to the island–or approved water wells.

Ray Tartaglione, a homeowner-turned-activist, has been sounding the alarm on the potential health risks caused by these systems for years in Rye. When he first purchased his property on Hen Island, he was told the sewage and water systems were legal and grandfathered in. Mr. Tartaglione joined the board and later became the president, which is when he was granted access to records showing what he had been told was false.

“I found out what they were telling me wasn’t true,” he said. “It wasn’t grandfathered in and these systems were put in illegally. I started the process to clean it up and I got a lot of resistance from the other homeowners. They were basically afraid that government agencies would come in and close the island down.”

But after holding meetings with the country health department and other agencies, he was voted off the board and his efforts were shut down. In 2008, the county removed lead investigator Ron Gatto without explanation and replaced him with Lenny Meyerson, who claimed to have inspected the island at the time and found no violations.

Worth noting, Mr. Gatto’s initial inspection found systems were installed with PVC pipe, a clear indication that the “grandfathered” explanation doesn’t hold water. While the original patent dates back to 1913, PVC/CPVC plastic piping for municipal plumbing wasn’t introduced until the 1970s, roughly two decades after the systems were allegedly installed at Hen Island.

The city council has repeatedly heard testimony from residents and experts, including Dr. Carolyn Lederman-Barotz, a physician and surgeon specializing in pediatric ophthalmology. She pled with the city council to “recognize the threat to the health and safety to the children of Rye caused by the mosquito infestation we have on Hen Island.”

“Our cottage is located on the Northern part of Hen Island. And from our porch we can see the American Yacht Club, the harbor side of Shenorock Beach Club and the children playing at these clubs and taking sailing lessons. From our back porch, we have a clear view of the marshlands conservancy and Greenhaven, its community beach and the children who play there. I make this observation to you to emphasize the effect of the mosquito infestation on Hen Island is not limited but in fact it directly effects all the Rye residents who use the beautiful coastal facilities and enjoy the natural beauty the city of Rye has to offer.”

Dr. Lederman-Barotz, who no longer lives on the island, said their family “has severely curtailed our visits to Hen Island” because “the mosquito infestation is just not worth it.”

That plea went largely unanswered.

Mr. Tartaglione, who now heads the local environmental group Heal the Harbor, said sewage and other forms of human waste eventually end up in the pristine and environmentally-sensitive Long Island Sound. It’s  just 450 feet from where one home was listed on the market for $20 million.

“Suffice it to say, we have enough information to know that Hen Island sewage has only one place to go, and that’s into the Long Island Sound,” said Terry Backer, the Executive Director of Soundkeeper. “There appears to be pollution going into the Sound, and it’s good to see an individual taking on a group because of that.”

Officials have said the dumping of raw sewage has stopped, a claim activists vehemently disputed. Video footage taken as recent as 2016 clearly shows the sewage pits. Given their location, it is irrelevant whether the sewage is directly dumped into the Sound or simply accessible through the water table.

“That’s not true. There’s a handful that have these sewage pits less than 10 feet from the water on a 2 foot water table,” he said. “You dig 2 feet, you’re hitting water.”

Since 2003, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show the area has experienced a disproportionately high number of West Nile cases juxtaposed to the more-highly populated surrounding areas. In 2004, only Westchester County and Queens County reported cases to the CDC, and the area often boasts half the number of reported cases found in New York City.

Over the years, concerns over mosquito-transmitted viruses have grown to include the Zika virus. Infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects of the brain, including microcephaly and other severe brain defects. It is also linked to other birth problems such as miscarriage and stillbirth.

There have also been increased reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a very uncommon sickness of the nervous system. It is established to have a direct relationship with areas affected by Zika.

Westchester County Health Commissioner Peter DeLucia has claimed Hen Island has been inspected–in fact, as recent as last year–and he believed residents were taking precautions.

But Port Chester Mayor Dennis Pilla doesn’t share the same sense of security.

“We’re densely populated; we’re an urban area,” Mayor Pilla recently told reporters. “We rely on the county health department and the county resources just for things like this, and it doesn’t sound like it’s adequate, quite frankly.”

People’s Pundit Daily made multiple requests for official responses to these allegations, but they went unanswered.


WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Some experts predict mosquitoes bearing the Zika virus could hit the Tri-State Area this summer, and some cities have put a strong focus on control measures.

As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, the northern suburbs in particular are taking action. Upscale suburbanites in Westchester County collected free fathead minnows at the White Plains Airport to help keep the disease-carrying mosquitoes under control.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which can lead to birth defects, is on the march this year.

“I just wanted to come here and talk to people to make sure that I was doing as much as I could have in this situation,” said Jeff Levine of Bedford. He added that he is worried about Zika.

The fish that were being given away at the airport are voracious eaters. They feed on mosquito larvae in fresh water — killing the bugs before they can fly and bite people.

But with Zika in the mix this year, is it enough?

“We’re densely populated; we’re an urban area. We rely on the county health department and the county resources just for things like this, and it doesn’t sound like it’s adequate, quite frankly,” said Port Chester Mayor Dennis Pilla.

Pilla thinks the Westchester County mosquito program is too passive.

There are no plans to spray for mosquitoes, and Pilla is worried about places like Hen Island – just offshore in nearby Rye. Hen Island has summer homes with rainwater catch basins – the kind of standing water mosquitoes love.

Activists said the Zika-bearing mosquito species has visited the area before.

“Asian Tiger mosquitoes — 2013, 2014,” said environmental activist Ray Tartaglione. He said in Westchester County, Hen Island will be ground zero if Zika mosquitoes arrive.

The county said it has inspected Hen Island, and believes residents are taking precautions. To make sure, though, they are placing mosquito traps later this month.

“We’re looking specifically for Asian tiger mosquitoes, and we’re going to take the mosquitoes and we send them to Alban,” said Assistant Westchester County Health Commissioner Peter DeLucia.

He said the county will not do any spraying.

“You’re not going to be able to spray your way out of the problem,” he said. “A lot of times, you’ll see places will do spraying as a nuisance measure.”

Westchester County is betting the farm on larvicide programs, but also has doubled the number of mosquito monitoring traps this year from 10 to 20 for a county of 450 square miles.

There are currently two cases of the Zika virus in Westchester County, both involving people who contracted it out of the area. Zika can be transmitted from person to person by sexual contact, and from people to mosquitoes who then bring it to other humans.


New study by CDC shows possible range extending to San Francisco and New York City
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal – March 30, 2016

Two mosquito species that carry the dangerous Zika virus may inhabit a wider range of North America than previously thought.

A study published online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine shows the potential range of Aedes aegypti, a tropical mosquito species that is the primary carrier of Zika, blanketing the southern U.S. and reaching as far north as San Francisco; Kansas City, Mo.; and New York City. The likely extent of another Zika-carrying mosquito species, Aedes albopictus, stretched across the Southwest and covered most of the eastern U.S., including northern New England, according to the study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Previously, the CDC’s maps showed the ranges of both species generally concentrated in the South, though Aedes albopictus ranged north to New York City and Illinois. The changes were based on new data collected by the CDC and its local partners that show where the mosquitoes have been found. Areas where the mosquitoes are endemic—Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the Gulf states—remained the same.

The maps don’t show the numbers or density of mosquitoes within each area, and they don’t indicate the risk of potential disease spread or risk of infection, the CDC said.

There have been no reported cases of anyone contracting Zika in the continental U.S. from a mosquito bite. The CDC has reported 273 cases in the U.S., the vast majority of which involved people who traveled to Zika-affected countries; six cases were sexually transmitted. In U.S. territories, 282 mosquito-borne cases and four travel-related cases have been documented.

“I think the major issue is that people have to be prepared, but don’t panic,” said Lyle Petersen, director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the CDC.

The CDC has encouraged women of childbearing age to postpone pregnancy for up to six months if they or their male partners have traveled to areas with active Zika transmission. Aside from mosquitoes, the virus can be transmitted through semen and possibly blood. The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved an experimental blood test to screen for Zika at blood-donation centers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Officials say there is mounting evidence of a link between Zika infection and birth defects, including brain abnormalities and microcephaly, a condition causing a baby’s head to be abnormally small. A separate report published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine appeared to bolster such a connection, and provided new evidence that the virus can remain in the mother’s bloodstream for the duration of pregnancy.

Researchers at the Children’s National Health System and their colleagues monitored a Zika-infected pregnant woman from the 11th week of gestation, when her symptoms emerged, to the 21st week, when she chose to terminate the pregnancy. In those 10 weeks, the researchers said the virus was active in the mother’s system, and the fetus showed signs of atypical brain development without signs of microcephaly.

In a postmortem examination, the researchers found the virus concentrated in the fetus’ brain, umbilical cord and placenta. More research is needed to understand how the mother’s viral load might predict fetal brain anomalies, said Adre du Plessis, director of the Children’s National Health System’s Fetal Medicine Institute and a co-senior author of the study.

Symptoms of Zika infection include rash, joint pain, fever and reddened eyes. For most people, the effects are mild and last several days to a week, according to the CDC. Many adults don’t show symptoms.

Health officials in Brazil have reported an increase in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare nervous system disorder that causes muscle weakness or temporary paralysis, among people who have had Zika infections. The CDC is working with officials in Brazil to study a possible link.

—Betsy McKay contributed to this article.



(Last week’s Rye City Council meeting had more than its share of overheated rhetoric and document tossing. But the heaviest Mayoral gaveling was reserved for a quiet ‘Residents to be heard’ pushback speech about some incorrect statements made in the media by a sitting councilman about Rye’s troubled Hen Island. I think anyone long aware of the facts here would agree this correction needed to be made because of the highly public nature of the distribution of that commentary from that sitting official. So I asked the speech maker for permission to put his text through ‘rewrite’ so as to address the Mayor’s publicly stated concerns about ‘personal attacks.’ He agreed – and he approved my reorganization of the subject matter and my edits. Here therefore below is Version 2.0 of Mr. Tartaglione’s rebuttal and correction of inaccuracies that were featured prominently on the front page of The Rye City Review.)

Good evening Mr. Mayor and Councilmembers. Tonight I’d like to thank the City Council and the City Manager for taking the time and the effort to visit Hen Island last month.

It is refreshing to see that after seven years of inaction from two prior administrations’ this Council seems to be concerned about the issues and working to develop a sensible solution. The solution, I hope, is based again on what’s best for the residents of Rye regardless of Westchester County Governments’ desire to whitewash these environmental and health issues as we have seen in the past.

One thing that we have seen in Rye in recent months, as it relates to other important issues – including the future of Playland and the affordable senior citizen housing project on Theodore Fremd- is the reality that the interests of the City of Rye are not always aligned with the interests of Westchester County Government. The same is true for Hen Island, as you hopefully once again consider what’s best for the citizens of Rye.

I am not going to detail tonight what has transpired in the past on a City or a County level. It’s not productive to look backwards when we wish to move forward. Mayor Sack expressed these same sentiments at the August 4th city council meeting when Hen Island was first listed as an agenda item. At that meeting Mayor Sack prefaced the discussion by stating, “despite the length of time that have been devoted to these issues, they have never been sufficiently framed and they have never been definitively addressed.” Mayor Sack went on to say that in the past things have been said that have caused a tremendous amount of animosity, and that it is important at this stage to remove the heat, and apply some light

Regrettably, soon after that meeting the front page of The Rye City Review carried an article about Hen Island in which a current sitting Rye City councilman stated that the Hen Island issue is “a waste of time” and it is “not a Rye issue”. I’m not paraphrasing. Those are direct quotes.

What is even more incredible is the fact that this was the only councilman who did not even take the time to visit the Island as all of his other colleagues did before making what sounds like his final determination on Hen Island.

In the same newspaper article (for some reason not yet available online) this councilman went on to explain that if he had a mosquito infestation in his backyard, he would hire an exterminator to rectify the problem. That final statement alone represents a certain level of ignorance, because unlike any other property in Rye, Hen Island collects over 33,000 gallons of stagnant rainwater (which breeds our mosquitos) in addition to multiple other unmaintained man-made breeding sites that this Council witnessed on their tour. Perhaps if this councilman visited Hen Island with the rest of the Council, he would know these things.

Additionally and contrary to the Rye City Codes, Hen Island corporate bylaws, rules and regulations prohibit island cottage owners from spraying even a can of ant and roach killer on the island let alone hire a professional insect exterminator.

Even more remarkably, while this councilman considers cottage owner requests for Rye code enforcement on Hen Island “a waste of time” – he himself is a professional code enforcement officer for the City of White Plains. In this role this councilman’s enforcement department actually visits my auto repair facility at least twice a year for code enforcement inspections. I have personally been written violations by this councilman for using inadequate electrical extension cords in my facility. Thus it boggles my mind that a Rye City Councilperson who is also a NY code enforcement officer could publicly call the violations he avoided personally observing on Hen Island “not a Rye issue”.

Please recall that we are all talking about an entire cottage community that flushes their toilets into the ground; collects bird feces infected water that residents are expected to shower in, and annually breeds’ millions mosquitoes.

I suggest all with questions here might refresh their recollections by taking a look at a map. Hen Island is in the City of Rye. Hen Island pays the City of Rye over $135,000 in taxes each year for which we receive basically a garbage truck for a couple of hours twice a year. The Council has all taken oaths to protect the health and safety of the Rye public as a primary function. And just as the geographical boundaries of Rye have long been established, so are the responsibilities of a Rye City Councilperson. Picking and choosing which Rye neighborhoods are subjected to the city’s enforcement codes – known as selective enforcement – is illegal under multiple statutes including the U.S. Constitution.

Recently there was a Rye administration that proposed a unique political theory that treated the Hen Island community as a fictional Rye entity with its own fictional set of laws and codes overseen by a deeply concerned county government. Our new administration has shown it cares about public safety and enforcement of law and 6 of its 7 members visited Hen Island and saw the conditions out there firsthand. The single councilmember who declined to join them on Hen Island also was the only councilmember to make any public comments so far – and those comments appear designed to undermine a process that was put in place by the Mayor and Council to “position ourselves to finally be able to come to a reasonable resolution of the issues, to remove the heat, and apply light.

I hope the process outlined by the Mayor and Council can proceed in good faith and in the manner the majority of the council has operated under. The health and safety of all Rye residents and the entire Sound Shore Region of Westchester are relying on it.

(See a preview of the upcoming “Hen Island – A Documentary Film” by clicking here)

(And the Rye TV video of the actual Tartaglione commentary session is available here starting at about the 19:25 time mark.)

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While news that mosquitoes collected in the Village of Rye Brook were the first to test positive for West Nile Virus has instilled fear in residents around Westchester County, this year’s numbers of virus-bearing mosquitoes are considerably lower than those of the past and those of neighboring counties, according to county health officials.

After the mosquito batch collected by inspectors from the Westchester County Department of Health in Rye Brook on July 16 tested positive at state labs, 62 other catch basins in the surrounding neighborhoods in the county were re-inspected and 10 were treated with a larvicide by county health inspectors.

While there have been no reported cases of West Nile Virus in humans this summer, late August is typically recorded as having the highest levels. Last year produced 29 positive mosquito batches and four human cases in the county. However, there were no Westchester deaths reported as a result of West Nile.

It is the Culex mosquito–commonly dubbed the “urban mosquito” by those in entomology–that carries West Nile. This mosquito only breeds in standing water collected in artificial containers such as bird feeders, buckets and toys.

Due to the prevalence of cisterns that collect standing water, certain residents of Rye’s Hen Island–considered ground zero for mosquitoes hysteria in Westchester–have identified it as particularly problematic when it comes to the risk of breeding of virus-bearing mosquitoes.

The 26-acre island, which lies off the coast of Milton Harbor in the City of Rye and is only accessible by boat, is made up of 34 privately owned seasonal cottages on the Long Island Sound, is without a central sewage system or electricity, and with no running water, people get their water from cisterns that collect rain from rooftops.

Ray Tartaglione, a Hen Island homeowner, has owned a vacation home there for more than 15 years. He has been a frequent fixture at Rye City Council meetings for the past six years, carrying on a sometimes solitary crusade to persuade the city to address what he feels are unsanitary conditions on the island that perpetuate the risk of virus-carrying mosquitoes breeding.

According to Tartaglione, the city and county should provide modern sewage and water service and improve sanitary conditions.

Tartaglione has filed multiple lawsuits to that effect over the last decade against Westchester County, Rye City and the island’s seven-member Board of Directors.

Some on the City Council as well as some of his fellow shareholders have called some of the publicity stunts Tartaglione has used in the past as crass, such as, “Mr. Floatie,” an excrement mascot costume which became a regular at City Council meetings in 2009.

Caren Halbfinger, director of public health, information, and communications at the Westchester County Department of Health, said there is no need for county residents to be worried if they take preventative measures by surveying their property and covering open containers that might collect standing water.

When it comes to Hen Island, Halbfinger said that, last summer, the Health Department set up mosquito traps for several weeks and found one mosquito pool that tested positive for West Nile.

But Halbfinger said that, on the county’s most recent inspection of Hen Island on July 8, inspectors found that residents were carefully following the county’s recommendations by covering and screening the cisterns they use to collect rainwater.

“We can’t quantify the risk, but anywhere there is standing water, there is a risk that these mosquitoes could develop. That’s why our proactive approach is coupled with education,” she said.

Since the beginning of the Hen Island controversy, the city’s position has been that officials do not have a right to go onto private property and force residents to take measures to alleviate what might be considered unhealthy conditions since, by law, it is the county that must make the determination whether there is a risk and enforce public health regulations. But Tartaglione said the county Health Department does not inspect often enough and minimizes the possible risks. City council members have agreed the county could stand to be more responsive to Rye’s mosquito prevention-related complaints and queries.

“You have to put effort into looking for a virus,” Tartaglione said. “The county does not have a mosquito control program, they have a larvacide program, which is killing larvae; it does not kill the infected adult mosquitoes. They would like you to believe that their larvacide program is a control program. Westchester County Health Department conducts the bare minimum of monitoring to help the New York State lab and vector control unit.”

King4 Hen-Island1




RYE, N.Y. – A Rye activist is calling for a cleanup of open water containers on Hen Island and the attention of the city as to its sanitary issues following the announcement last week that several batches of mosquitoes in Rye tested positive for West Nile Virus.

“Of all 17 test results, every one of them, except one in Yonkers, was within five miles of Hen Island,” said Ray Tartaglione, executive director of . He says he believes Hen Island has the biggest mosquito infestation in the county. “Most mosquitoes stay within five miles of their breeding site. It’s not a coincidence that 95 percent of West Nile in Westchester County is here,” he said.

One batch of mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile Virus in Rye on July 6 and four more batches were found July 17 and 18, the Westchester County Health Department reported last week. Of those batches, one pool of mosquitoes collected from Hen Island on July 17 tested positive for the virus according to a letter sent on Aug. 8 by the department to Benjamin Minard Jr., the president of the board of directors of Kuder Island Colony Inc., the holding company of the island formed by residents.

An inspection of the island was made on July 19, stemming from a complaint about “sanitary conditions, potable water, and to determine the extent of mosquito activity” on the island.

The inspection found that most sites free of possible breeding areas and there were no containers littered around the island, according to the letter. Members of the Health Department did find that several homes had inadequate coverings for their cisterns, which are receptacles used to store water for domestic use. All cisterns that were in good condition and had proper coverage were found to be free from mosquito larvae.

The department informed Mindard that all cisterns on the island will now be required to be equipped with properly installed, tight fitting covers and that all residents of the island be made aware of the need to eliminate standing water on their properties.

Tartaglione, who owns a home on the island, said the residents collect water for domestic use in barrels and horse troughs. “The first thing anyone tells you when it comes to West Nile and mosquitoes is to get rid of standing water,” he argued. “The county says to seal the tanks; well they’re not sealed. Sealed means air tight and [residents] have to get the water into those tanks.”

A re-inspection date is going to be set up within two weeks, according to the department, “in an effort to point out potential mosquito breeding sites and how to address their abatement.” In the letter the department also noted that no other findings would require any further action.

Tartaglione says he is concerned for the hundreds of kids who swim and sail every day during the summer at large Rye clubs that sit across the water from Hen Island. “Their parents don’t know that the West Nile Virus is coming from Hen Island. The more attention I bring to it, the closer we come to fixing it,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be fixed, it’s just a matter of time for people to realize this is a life-threatening situation.”

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Rye Sound Shore Review – August 16, 2012

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The Rye Sound Shore Review – August 9, 2012

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Rye Record – August 9, 2012


Thursday, 09 August 2012 15:43

By Rye Record Staff

With positive samples of West Nile Virus found throughout Westchester County in recent weeks, do Rye residents have reason to fear? “Yes!”, declared Hen Island resident Ray Tartaglione and his lawyer, Jordan Glass, at the August 6 City Council meeting. Tartaglione, who lives in Purchase most of the year, has been a regular attendee of Council meetings for years, asking the City to enforce the County health code on Hen Island. His larger goal is to have the government build pipelines from the mainland to bring potable water and a sewer system to the island.

At the Council meeting, Tartaglione unleashed a torrent of attacks on City officials. He accused the City of failing to inform the public about the latest New
 York State Laboratory test results from larva specimens drawn from samples on Hen Island, which
 indicate high concentrations of West Nile Virus (WNV). He further charged the City with “endangering” the health of Rye residents. In between attacking the character of various City officials, Tartaglione expressed alarm over the threat from West Nile to children in camp programs at the Rye Nature Center and the many shore clubs. He urged the City to immediately close Hen Island until these “life-threatening conditions are resolved.”

City Manager Scott Pickup adamantly denied having received any official report of positive WNV testing in Rye. He added, “And Hen Island is probably the most inspected piece of property in Rye.”

Councilwoman Catherine Parker asked Tartaglione to give the Council the results he claimed to have from the County. He refused.

The Rye Record contacted both the County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more answers. According to County officials, the first mosquito batches to test positive for the virus were found in Mamaroneck last month. The total countywide is now 17. According to the New York State Department of Health, as of August 9, out of the 470 reported positive mosquito pools this year, there have been four human cases in New York: two upstate, one in Staten Island, and one in Suffolk County.

Rye Nature Center Executive Director Christine Siller assured the community that their center is regularly inspected for a variety of diseases, including West Nile Virus, in order to operate camps. “We would have been notified by the County if any traces were found on the premises,” Siller said.

A few facts about West Nile Virus: About 80% of people who become infected with WNV have no symptoms, 19% experience mild symptoms such as fever and headache, and only one in 150 people will develop a serious illness. More serious illnesses from West Nile Virus have been reported so far this year than any since 2004. There have been about two dozen deaths in the United States this summer, including nine in Texas, but none in New York.

While there is no cause for alarm, notwithstanding Tartaglione’s allegations, all mosquitoes need to breed is a small amount of standing, unfiltered water. Rye’s marshlands and wetlands are a perfect habitat for mosquitoes. Every summer, the County encourages residents to take precautionary measures, including removing any still water in gutters, birdbaths, buckets, etc., as well as applying bug spray when outdoors, especially at dusk.

Health officials believe the mild winter, early spring, and very hot summer have fostered breeding of the mosquitoes that spread the virus to people. Most West Nile infections are reported in August and September, so it’s not yet clear how bad 2012 will be.


At the Rye City Council meeting Monday night, Hen Island agitator Ray Tartaglione was at it again, and his comments were biting.

Tartaglione, known for his one-man band Hen Island antics with Mr. Floatie, charged locations in Rye have tested positive for West Nile virus according to his sources at the Westchester Department of Health. He was suggesting the City knew this and had not disclosed this fact. During the meeting Tartaglione refused to release any report or name his source inside the Westchester Health Department.

Tartaglione’s vitrol included telling Rye Mayor Doug French “you are a disgusting individual who should be relieved of his position today” and then nailing the Rye City Manager with the comment “you are a liar Mr. Pickup.”

Then today (Wednesday) Rye Mayor Doug French forwarded a report from the Westchester Department of Health detailing an inspection of Hen Island on July 19th where one batch of mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile virus (although most of the report says all other things for the most part are in order).

Mayor French said “As you may know, the City relies on the County DOH [Department of Health] — as most local municipal governments do — to provide the necessary expertise and guidance on health and environmental matters to ensure the safety of our residents and acts accordingly based on their directives.  The complaints about sewage, potable water and mosquitoes were once again investigated by the County DOH and attached is the latest report.  Please contact the County DOH directly should you need further information or have any questions.” The report was conducted in response to a complaint filed. One would have to imagine it was Tartaglione who complained.

This report aligned with a report of 17 cases of West Nile found in June and July listed in the Westchester County web site; three of the cases are listed in Rye (exact locations are not named). Further, Rye Nature Center head Christene Siller told yesterday “Westchester County monitors several locations throughout the area for West Nile.  Our site is one of several places in Rye where this monitoring occurs. There is no official report that I have been given by the County as to whether the Nature Center tested positive or not this year.”

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March 29, 2012

A 26-acre island that is mostly unknown to many in Rye has apparently caught the attention of the state’s top environmental watchdog.

The Department of Environmental Conservation is set to visit the controversial island in the coming weeks.

A source confirmed that the plan is for regional representatives of the DEC to perform an inspection of the island, alongside city and county officials, to determine if state laws are being adequately complied with.

Republican Mayor Douglas French confirmed that the DEC was looking into the matter in order to provide further information. “When it comes to environmental issues, we look to the state DEC and the county on those matters and follow their guidance,” French said.

The dispute over Hen Island is one that has dragged on – in and out of the courts – for years.

Its environmental issues have also been the crusade of one of its most polarizing residents, Ray Tartaglione. Tartaglione has sought to expose what he believes to be environmental flaws on the island. Hen Island inhabitants counter, saying that the resident is bitter for being ousted as the governing board’s president years ago.

“These are real problems out there,” Tartaglione said on Tuesday. “It is just a question of who is going to write the violations.”

In 2007, a lawsuit brought by Tartaglione against the island’s governing body alleged unsanitary conditions related to a mosquito infestation and improper sanitation. Tartaglione is known for his criticism of city government and circus-like antics, including enlisting an eight-foot feces mascot, Mr. Floatie.

The lawsuit was thrown out of court due to two letters from the county that stated the island’s inhabitants were not violating any county health regulations.

Tartaglione then tried his hand at suing the city in 2009, albeit unsuccessfully. That time around, the court determined that enforcement of the island was at the discretion of the city, not the county.

However, that did not stop the resident – who has long argued that a coverup was in the works – from continuing to press the issue publicly. He points to an inspection conducted in 2007 by Ron Gatto, a county environmental enforcement officer that revealed numerous violations on the island. However, the county did an about-face, changed its stance and eventually removed Gatto from the case.

Coincidentally, as the state enters the equation, it is the same Gatto who now serves as a police director for DEC and is likely responsible for pushing the state to intervene.

Tartaglione is hopeful that the state will step in on what he calls a long neglected enforcement issue. However, if it doesn’t, one is sure to expect more of the same from the critic. “If DEC says there are no issues, it only tells me that the coverup would be on the state level as well,” he said.

Hen Island is a private seasonal inlet that sits off the coast of Milton Harbor, lying along the Long Island Sound. The island is only accessible by boat, and has no electricity or running water. The Kudor Island Colony Inc., a corporation made up of seven residents of the island, own the secluded private seasonal island that houses summer homes.

Ira Goldenberg, an attorney representing Kudor Island Colony Inc., would not speak to The Rye Sound Shore Review when reached by phone on Tuesday.

A phone call to City Attorney Kristen Wilson seeking comment was not returned as of press time.

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At the December 7 City Council meeting, Mayor Doug French not only presided over a long agenda, but lost a “STAR” in the process.

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Westchester Guardian – December 1, 2011

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RYE, NY – Rye City Mayor Douglas French is currently being investigating for “building without a permit” by the Rye City Manger’s Office. A violation was issued in July to the owners of 13 Richard Place in Rye which, according to Rye City Assessment Rolls, is registered to Douglas and Carrie French.

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Rye Record letters to the editor
November 18, 2011
Dear Editor,

As Mayor, I normally do not write letters to the editor, but given the full-page “Send a Message” paid advertisement run in the last issue of this paper attacking Rye’s representatives with innuendo and false claims, the standards of public discourse in Rye have changed – albeit hitting a new low.

In a quest to develop the island off the coast of Greenhaven — against the wishes of the Hen Island property owners association — a Purchase resident continues to make unsubstantiated environmental complaints against its owners under a banner called Heal the Harbor. The Westchester County Health Department regularly tests the Long Island Sound in and around Hen Island and those tests continue to show that water quality meets the County’s health standards and there are no violations of any regulations. The County and the Courts have ruled that no action is required with respect to mosquito control. Finally, the seasonal cottages on Hen Island are not considered permanent dwellings under the New York State Building Code, and are therefore compliant with potable water requirements.

However, the Purchase resident continues his assault on Rye – four years running now — in hopes of developing the Island by exercising an easement for an underground sewer line from the coast of Greenhaven to the Island.  To do this, he has tried to pressure and embarrass representatives of the Rye City Council and particularly the women – by publishing and displaying rude, mocked-up photos. While that is his right, it is not reflective of the values of our community and the examples we seek to set for our children.  He has tried to intimidate my family and neighbors by towing and leaving his distastefully decorated van in front of my home at all hours of the day and night. He has shown great disrespect to our community as his van and crude costumed-character parade in our downtown, in front of our businesses, churches, the Square House, and City Hall.

His latest approach is to again seek to propel his personal agenda against Rye’s mayor — whoever is serving, by making false claims and broadly spreading misinformation — this time about home improvements done on my rental property, some of which took place prior to my purchase of the home in 1992. Anyone who sells a home goes through the process of updating the building department files where necessary.

The most important message is: the City Council is all about representing Rye, and will continue to do its work focusing on the issues that are important to and in the best interests of you, the residents of Rye.


Mayor Doug French


Westchester Guardian – October 27, 2011

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Sewage installation on Hen Island
October 13, 2011

– To The Editor

To the Editor, Mayor French is attempting to legalize the installation of sewage systems for an entire community without first complying with the necessary statutory requirements including draft or environmental impact statements, engineering reports, or studies of any kind. The residents of Rye need to be informed of what the ramifications will be if composting toilets are allowed to be installed on Hen Island.

With the installation of chemical, incinerating or composting toilets, it should be noted that they are not a remedy to the current sewage pollution problem on Hen Island and in actuality, may cause more of an environmental and health problem than the present systems.

Although there are many different types of chemical, incinerating and composting toilets, the process work factors are similar and none of the systems treat gray water in any way. Therefore, if Hen Island is allowed to install composting systems, according to state codes, homeowners will have to use their present illegal systems for the handling of liquid effluents or install new systems for the treatment of gray water. Gray water, such as dishwashing residuals along with bathing and showering residuals, all produce microorganisms, pathogens and non-degradable chemicals. Gray water usage is estimated to account for up to 40 gallons per day per person.

Most notable is that all composting toilets require some type of electricity consistently for both heat elements and air flow fans used for evaporation. Many homes on Hen Island have no electricity and those that do, have solar electrical systems with limited capacity and cannot leave solar systems on when they are not in residence.

If it has been determined that if there is major problem with the compost batch in a home, the owner will have to use a process called a “major problem default sequence,” which includes transferring the compost batch to 55 gallon sealed drums and storing them for one year in the sun to meet minimum public health risks.

There is an unwritten mandate within regulatory agencies that the general population cannot be left to deal with their own excrements. These issues of sewage treatment and potable water are very delicate and in-depth issues that should be handled by professionals that have undertaken studies, visited the site, explored alternatives and come to conclusions based on scientific research and experience.

With regards to the covering of water tanks that store water for domestic use on the Island, this inappropriate fix is also being suggested to calm complaints from Rye residents particularly concerned about the many mosquito breeding sites allowed to continue on Hen Island. These mosquito-breeding sites are as a result of stored stagnant water in tanks and a general lack of maintenance on the Island.

The first requirement of any effective mosquito control program is to remove any standing water. The Board of Director’s recommendation to cover the water is not and will not be effective as the water that has been stored in horse troughs for years has been covered in the past to stop leaves and other debris from clogging the home water systems. These covers cannot stop the mosquito breeding as the inlet openings have to be open to receive incoming water. Continual water flow on Hen Island is not possible as there is no running water on the Island.

Additionally the covering of water collected from rooftops (infected with bird feces) and pumped in homes for domestic use, does not address the absence of potable water in cottages on Hen Island. Residents will still be required to wash dishes, cooking utensils and shower in bird feces infected water collected from rooftops.

Raymond J. Tartaglione,
White Plains



Letters To The Editor
October 13, 2011

Dear Editor,

In the last Rye Record, you wrote that “green toilets are coming to Hen Island” as well as coverings for Hen Island cottage rainwater collection systems. Rye residents deserve a few more facts about this so-called “progress” before things go much further.

Hen Island is Rye’s offshore seasonal cottage community with 34 houses spread over three separate islands. Today, none of these island homes has municipal water, sanitary sewer, or electric service. Many of the cottage water and sewage systems on the island today are makeshift, built by the cottage owners and operated completely outside of Westchester County’s and Rye’s municipal laws for sanitation and safety. Thus readers may not be surprised to learn that Hen Island is Westchester County’s last working outhouse. Really.

Now, after a series of closed-door negotiations this summer with Hen Island representatives, Mayor French has announced that next year Hen Island cottage owners would install coverings over their rooftop water collection systems and install composting toilets. He has publicly called this “an easy fix.” for Hen Island. This is quite simply a ludicrous, empty, political gesture given the serious, long festering health problems Hen Island creates for Rye City residents and users of the Long Island Sound.

Composting toilets require continuously supplied full power electricity to work properly. There is none on Hen Island. Solar electric systems installed on some of the cottages do not supply continuous 24-hour power – and these systems must be switched off when the homeowner is not in residence. Improper composting of human waste will require storage of the improperly composted material for a period of one year in 55-gallon drums, in the sun, along the shores of Milton Harbor. According to state code, Hen Island would still be required to install an approved sewage disposal system for the remaining gray water.

Likewise, covering up the rooftop rainwater collection systems on cottages will not prevent the annual clouds of fresh water mosquitoes from hatching in the cisterns of Hen Island. Nor will it make the roof water safe to drink – potable – for the cottage dwellers under any circumstances.

Mayor French knows that a legal sanitary sewer and potable water supply hook-up easement is in place on Hen Island. This municipal utility easement is incorporated into the Island’s deed, and can be installed by Hen Island at the direction of, and under the supervision of, Rye. This would allow sewage and potable water issues for the islands to be handled according to the regulations that all other City residents comply with. It’s a straightforward and technically feasible solution, and Rye City taxpayers wouldn’t be charged one dime. They would even make money if the City issued violations and collected fines.

I have to ask why Rye’s elected officials are trying to do everything wrong first before doing what’s right as required by law.

Very truly yours,
Raymond J. Tartaglione



Attempting to Legalize the Installation of Sewage Systems on Hen Island

– To The Editor

October 6, 2011

Mayor French is attempting to legalize the installation of sewage systems for an entire community without first complying with the necessary statutory requirements including draft or environmental impact statements, engineering reports or studies of any kind. The residents of Rye need to be informed of what the ramifications will be in Rye if composting toilets are allowed to be installed on Hen Island.

It should be noted that the installation of chemical, incinerating or composting toilets, are not a remedy to the current sewage pollution problem on Hen Island and they may in actuality cause more of an environmental and health problem than the present systems. Although there are many different types of chemical, incinerating and composting toilets, the process work factors are similar but none of the systems treat gray water in any way. Therefore, if Hen Island is allowed to install composting systems, according to New York State codes, homeowners will have to use their present illegal systems for the handling of liquid effluents or install new systems for the treatment of gray water. Gray water, defined as dishwashing residuals, along with bathing and showering residuals, all produce microorganisms, pathogens and non-degradable chemicals. Gray water usage is estimated to account for up to 40 gallons per person, per day.

The recently, improperly permitted and installed composting systems on the south and middle sections of the Island can evidence this. At the time of construction of the south end cottage, in addition to installing an incinerating toilet without Health Department approval, the owner illegally installed a new sewage disposal system to handle his gray water effluents. Similarly, the middle island cottage owner still uses his pre-existing system that continues to pollute the waters of the Long Island Sound due to its placement in a water table of less than two feet.

Most notable is that all composting toilets require some type of consistent electricity for both heat elements and air flow fans used for evaporation. Many homes on Hen Island have no electricity and those that do, have solar electrical systems with limited capacity and they cannot leave solar systems on when they are not in residence.

Other potential problems include personal health threats, as well as to the community at large from lack of use, bad carbon/nitrogen mixes, too much moisture, refusal of users to follow instructions, and personal contact contamination when the user is empting the unit if the composting process has not been thorough and complete. It is also cautioned that when empting a composting unit the handler should wear protective gloves and a mask. The biggest problem is the potential for composting toilets to become a habitat for vectors. These can be any critter that can carry a pathogen to a more common human living environment. These vectors include mosquitoes, flies, mice, and rats, etc.

If it has been determined that if there is major problem with the compost batch in a home, the owner will have to use a process called a “MAJOR PROBLEM DE FAU LT SEQUE NCE” which includes transferring the compost batch to 55 gallon sealed drums and storing them for one year in the sun to meet minimum public health risks.

There is an unwritten mandate within regulatory agencies that the general population cannot be left to deal with their own excrement. These issues of sewage treatment and potable water are very delicate and in-depth issues that should be handled by professionals that have undertaken studies, visited the site, explored alternatives and come to conclusions based on scientific research and experience. A portion of the current New York State codes is copied below for reference.

New York State Septic System Design Regulations 75-A.10 states:
“b. Non-waterborne Systems
1. General – In certain areas of the State where running water is not available or is too scarce to economically support flush toilets, or where there is a need or desire to conserve water, the installation of non-water-borne sewage systems may be considered however, the treatment of wastewater from sinks, showers, or other facilities must be provided when nonflush toilets are installed.

2. Chemical and Recirculating Toilets
i. Chemical toilets provide a toilet seat located directly above a vault containing chemicals to disinfect and remove odors from the wastewater. Recirculating toilets use chemicals as the toilet flush fluid. The wastes are separated from the fluid, wastes discharged to an internal holding tank and the fluid reused.

ii. The liquids used in these types of toilets do not completely disinfect the wastes, therefore waste products from these units shall not be discharged to surface waters or to the ground surface.

iii. The reduced volume wastewater from recirculating toilets may be discharged to a larger holding tank but not to a subsurface absorption system.”

Rather than requiring homeowners to install systems that do not remediate the current sewage issues, the Board along with the City of Rye should be encouraging and recommending the undertaking of studies on how we can address all four issues (sewage, potable water, mosquitoes, and lack of regular maintenance) currently risking the health and safety of the community.

We believe that due to a personal relationship between Rye’s Mayor Doug French and his neighbor on Meadow Place, (who is also a Hen Island resident) that the City of Rye is encouraging and attempting to change the codes and zoning to allow composting systems on Hen Island. Mayor French is trying to fast track this issue due to current and past pressure as a result of his failure to enforce sewage, potable water, maintenance and the worst mosquito infestation in a residential community in Westchester County. Additionally Mayor French is attempting to legalize the installation of sewage systems for an entire community without first complying with the necessary statutory requirements including draft or environmental impact statements, engineering reports or studies of any kind. He has public stated that “composting system are an easy fix to the problem on Hen Island”. Unfortunately he has failed to state all of the short comings of composting systems and that composting systems are alternative systems that are used in remote residential locations where sewer access is not available.

The Board of Directors along with Mayor French would not like the public to know that an easement is in place on Hen Island. We presently have incorporated in our deed a utility easement that can be exercised by the Hen Island community that would allow sewage and potable water to be handled according to regulations. Although ultimately the Mayor “MAY” be successful in creating code and zoning changes before his term is complete he will most likely spark multiple law suits that will affect the Hen Island community, cause taxpayers to waste more money and ultimately cause Hen Island to rectify the problems the right way after he is no longer in office. This could happen after residents have spent thousands of dollars to install composting systems in vain.

With regards to the covering of water tanks that store water for domestic use on the Island, this inappropriate fix is also being suggested to calm complaints from Rye residents particularly concerned about the many mosquito breeding sites allowed to continue on Hen Island. These mosquito breeding sites are as a result of stored stagnant water in tanks, (approximately 1000 gallons per household X 33 homes) filling in the buffer zone with debris (which creates rain water ponds) and a general lack of maintenance on the Island.

The first requirement of any effective mosquito control program is to remove any standing water. The Board of Director’s recommendation to cover the water is not and will not be effective as the water that has been stored in horse troughs for years has been covered in the past to stop leaves and other debris from clogging the home water systems. These covers cannot stop the mosquito breeding as the inlet openings have to be open to receive incoming water. Even in situations in the mid west where animal troughs are necessary to accommodate drinking water for animals, the remedy to eliminate mosquito breeding from these troughs is to allow continual water flow which will break the life cycle of the larva. Continual water flow on Hen Island is not possible as there is no running water on the Island.

Additionally the covering of water collected from rooftops (infected with bird feces) and pumped in homes for domestic use, does not address the absence of potable water in cottages on Hen Island. Residents will still be required to wash dishes, cooking utensils and shower in bird feces infected water collected from rooftops.

The Hen Island attorney, Rye’s Mayor Doug French and the Board of Directors have no experience in this field and should not determine our future and the future health concerns of our neighbors.

It has been rumored that this is a fight within a community between neighbors on Hen Island. In looking at the small picture this may be true but in the larger frame of things, it should be noted that these issues affect everyone not only in Green Haven, Milton Point and Rye but also every community that uses the Long Island Sound.

The future health and safety of not only our community but also the neighboring Milton Harbor, Green haven, Milton Point and Rye will be affected by these inappropriate decisions if they are allowed to happen. If Mayor French and the Board of Directors for Hen Island were truly concerned with the health and safety of residents, they would both suggest and mandate appropriate studies along with the proper remedies and stop this charade of “we are fixing the problem.”

Raymond J. Tartaglione
Webmaster –



When may public officials not enforce the law?
July 21, 2011

— Written by Judge John Carey

As soon as I arrived at Harvard Law School, two weeks after finishing undergraduate studies at Yale, I began hearing talk about how to “ace” written exams that called for “essay” type answers.

The collective wisdom among the students I talked to was that professors, in writing exam questions, would word the fact pattern so as to raise three or four separate legal issues.

Woe betide the student who wrote brilliant answers on all but one of the intended issues. Ignoring one issue, a mistake called failure to “spot” that issue, meant a proportionate subtraction from the maximum credit for that question, no matter how soundly the other issues were dealt with.

This all came to mind the other day when, for the first time, I read the January decision of the Supreme Court in White Plains in the case of Ray Tartaglione against the City of Rye. It appears to me that not all the issues were “spotted.”

The decision determined several issues against the city. But then it said that “The relief which petitioners seek in this proceeding is that the [city] be compelled to enforce their own zoning code; however, the decision to enforce a municipal code rests in the discretion of the public officials charged with its enforcement and is not a proper subject for relief in the nature of mandamus to compel [citations omitted].”

This statement conjures up visions of equally deserving parties being differently treated by public officials, leading to suspicion of bias, favoritism, or worse. This would be demoralizing for officials and citizens alike. What I think the opinion should have explained at this point is how to tell when official action is discretionary rather than obligatory.

What makes an official decision obligatory versus discretionary can often be found in the enabling statutory language. That is true in the very language this court had before it.

If the requirement of “an annual inspection of all private sewage disposal systems by a contractor duly approved by the Westchester County Commissioner of Health on all properties bordering on…Milton Harbor…” (Rye Code § 161-1) has not been complied with, “the city manager or the building inspector shall cause written notice to be served personally upon the owner…” Nothing discretionary here; the word “shall” mandates the specified action by one of the two officials (Rye Code § 161-3).

In contrast, that section goes on to say that “If the owner fails, neglects or refuses to correct the conditions…then in that event the city may cause the plumbing system to be repaired…” at the owner’s expense. The word “may” indicates discretionary authority, exercise of which cannot be mandated by a court. If that were all there was to it, I would have no quarrel with what happened in this case. But that is where “spotting” the issues comes in.

The fact that a duty may be discretionary should not end the discussion in court. Administrative discretion must be exercised rationally, not arbitrarily or capriciously. This issue was not analyzed or ruled on.

And there is another issue that was not mentioned in the decision, an issue of constitutional proportions. Administrative action that treats differently parties that are similarly situated, sometimes called “selective enforcement, can violate the constitutional requirement of equal protection of the laws. In this case that issue was never mentioned.

This is a case that should have been appealed to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. There, three appellate judges, with the research assistance of law secretaries, would have been able to study all aspects in depth. Each of the issues I have mentioned here would doubtless have been considered. The end result might have been no different, but the public would have at least been reassured about the treatment they can expect if they ever have to go to court.

John Carey can be reached at



The Hen Island Impasse: A Tale of Two Islands
June 9, 2011


Depending upon whom one asks whether or not there are violations on Hen Island, one will get a different account of the seasonal inlet which lies off the coast of Milton Harbor.

The city says it is addressing health and safety “complaints” on the island, with the expectation of a resolution in the near future.

But if you speak to Ray Tartaglione, the island resident at the center of the ongoing controversy, the “violations” have been largely ignored by two successive city administrations.

Last week, the Kudor Island Colony, Inc., the island’s governing body, voted in favor of several proposals aimed at addressing concerns over mosquitoes, potable water and sanitary upgrades on toilets. But a final decision still awaits approval of the island’s shareholders – a procedure that will likely take a month to complete.

This news may finally lessen tensions between the two opposing sides, but City Manager Scott Pickup doubts that.

“Because even in his correspondences, [Tartaglione] talks about wanting to have a sanitary [sewer] connection to Greenhaven,” the manager explained. And that is something officials are not willing to entertain.

“The city at this point honestly doesn’t want to have an underwater sanitary line they would be responsible for running through Milton Harbor,” Pickup told us. “It’s not something we’re terribly interested in exploring.”

To address the mosquito concerns – Tartalgione says the island is infested – standing water will be covered. The manager said spraying would not be involved as part of the plan.

The city is pushing the island’s board to adopt composting toilets, since the island does not have any septic tanks or sanitary sewer lines. The city has also been in talks with the county to make sure there are no regulatory hurdles.

But Tartaglione doesn’t understand why he hasn’t been included in conversations between the city, county, and island board – particularly since he is the one who raised the concerns to begin with.

“All they’re saying is they are ‘addressing issues’,” he added. “They’re not even willing to admit there is a problem. Not the island, not the city.”

Mayor Douglas French (R) said the issue is being handled just as any other complaint that comes before the city. The City Council has asked the city manager to review the issues and determine what remedies may be put in place, French said.

“Rye is negating this issue,” Tartaglione said. “What are you hiding? That’s the problem with this council: They are not enforcing the laws.”

Tartaglione said that the city wouldn’t admit that there are violations because to do so would be an admission of guilt. He said his mission is not about the theatrics which residents have grown accustomed to, rather it’s aiming to bring to light the city’s allowance of polluters.

“If the city wants me to go away, it’s a very simple procedure,” the critic said. “Issue violations and take [island homeowners] to court.”

But the mayor contended that there is no public policy matter before the council and no legislative action to take. “It is really an administrative function,” he said.

When the new administration took office in January 2010, the group said it would take a fresh look at the issue. Since then, however, Tartaglione did initiate a lawsuit against the city hoping to compel officials into action. Then, earlier this year, the courts dismissed the case, saying Rye had the authority to act but only if it chooses so.

“All we can do is again look at the issues and come up with remedies, if any,” the mayor said. “Frankly, there is not much more we can do beyond that. I think that’s strong leadership we’re providing. We’re problem solvers; we look at issues, analyze them, look for the right solutions and than move on.”

Phone calls seeking comment from Ira Goldenberg, an attorney representing the Kudor Island board, were not returned as of press time.


May 30, 2011
By Jim Byrne


RYE – Over Mother’s Day weekend, many families, who were out and about, couldn’t avoid spotting the return of Ray Tartaglione’s revamped “Floatiemobile”. The navy minivan, with a toilet bowl up top and Photoshopped images of Mayor Doug French and all Councilmembers except Joe Sack engaged in a private act on the sides, was seen outside Ruby’s Oyster Bar & Bistro, as well as other locations around town.

Mayor French quickly addressed the issue at the May 11 City Council meeting, and asked Ray Tartaglione, who was in attendance, to come to the podium to answer questions he received from Rye citizens about the “obscene” and “crude” images. Among them: “What do you say to children who have to look at that?”

Mr. Tartaglione declined the invite, but stepped to the podium later in the meeting. The Hen Island provocateur entered a heated back-and-forth with Mayor French and City Manager Scott Pickup, and called the Kuder Island Corporation “a bunch of polluters” and Mayor French a “polluter enabler”.

“We are solving the problem,” said Mayor French in a later conversation. “Hen Island has been this way for 50 years and we are addressing the problem and making progress, and will communicate a solution when we get there. I’m proud of the work the Council and City Staff have done in looking at pieces of Hen Island while taking a straight-forward tactical approach.”

The Mayor reiterated that existing Hen Island issues – mosquitoes, sewage, sanitation, potable water – will be resolved in coming months.



Letters To The Editor
May 30, 2011

Park Floatiemobile Elsewhere, Mr. T

Dear Editor,

Does Ray Tartaglione really believe the Hen Island issue is Mayor French’s fault, thus giving him the right to publicly debase our elected official? (“Floatiemobile Returns”, May 22). Mr. Tartaglione has turned his drab-looking, soccer mom minivan into a floating billboard with Photoshopped images of Mayor French and all but one of the other City Councilmembers engaged in a private act painted on the sides. This eyesore does not have a sunroof, but instead sports an actual toilet mounted on top.

Turning his car into a publicity stunt to disrespect the Mayor is a fine example to send to the youth of Rye. Maybe Mr. Tartaglione should park his billboard at all the elementary schools. And while he is there, he can enroll in kindergarten and discuss it during Show & Tell. I’m sure he would be willing to answer all the questions the kids might have regarding what’s depicted.

Mayor French has said he is “going to review Hen Island, assess the situation, and take a straightforward, tactical approach” — a process and steps that were never part of Mayor Otis’ playbook. Rye was not built in a day.

The “Floatiemobile”, as it is called, is the perfect name for Mr. Tartaglione’s vehicle. When turned upside down, it can float in the toilet mounted on its roof…. right where it belongs.

Keep up the good work, Mayor French.

Warren J. Wadma



Letters To The Editor
May 30, 2011

City’s Job Is to Protect the Health of All its Citizens

Dear Editor,

Three years ago, in July, I took the five-minute boat ride to South Hen Island with real estate agents. No sooner did we step foot on the island than we were, without exaggeration, set upon by mosquitoes. They covered my bare arms and legs and were in my eyes and mouth. I was there to work; the appalling cloud of mosquitoes made it very nearly impossible.

I couldn’t wait to get off the island. I left with countless bites, and the impression that warnings about West Nile Virus and mosquito prevention had somehow failed to travel to Hen Island, with its horse troughs of standing water and peculiar smells. There persists the idea that because Hen Island is surrounded by water, it’s isolated from the larger community. But it’s disingenuous for Mayor French to say he is “more worried about the water line under Purchase Street”, as if the City of Rye begins and ends at Purchase Street (and as though he can’t address two problems at once).

Gone are the days when environmental problems are looked upon or dealt with as though they exist in isolation. Hen Island may be surrounded by water, but it’s a stone’s throw from Greenhaven, the clubs with their beaches, and passing boat traffic. It’s still located in the heart of suburbia.

Why would Mayor French be “looking to the County for guidance?” The County has already said that the sewer problem at Hen Island is for the City of Rye to correct, so what kind of handholding does the City need? Bringing basic sewer services, protecting the health and well being of its citizens, is among the essential functions of government, so why does Mayor French (and the mayor that preceded him) treat this as trivial?

And what’s really in Rye’s best financial interest: to spend money to hook up a sewer or septic system to Hen Island, or to spend that money on lawyers and court costs for the next ten years, Osborn-style?

Suzy Allman


Rye Sound Shore Review – May 6, 2011

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Rye Sound Shore Review – March 11, 2011

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Follow-Up on the News

March 3, 2011
– By Robin Jovanovich

RYE – At the March 2 City Council meeting, City staff and Councilmembers provided input on a number of longstanding issues.

Central Avenue Bridge

City Manager Scott Pickup reported that he’d met with Department of Transportation officials in late February and they’d agreed to move the bridge project on a different track from the Theodore Fremd Retaining Wall, which was also severely damaged in the 2007 floods.

“We estimate that bids will go out this summer and work will begin in the fall,” said the city manager. “If we get the steel within six months, the project will be done within a year.”

Mark your calendars, Rye residents!

The Schubert Case

Forest Avenue resident Bob Schubert, who has been mostly absent from Council meetings after being a regular at them for five years concerning the sudden and dramatic depletion of water in his pond, was back for the second meeting in a row. He apologized for the statement he’d made at the previous meeting, describing the treatment he’d received as German justice. “I should have said Nazi justice!”

Mr. Schubert filed a $5 million civil rights suit against the City in November 2009 and claims he and his attorney have tried to settle the case but there has been no response from the City. The suit is pending before a Federal judge. He asked the Council to conduct a citywide referendum on the matter.

“As defendants in a lawsuit representing the City, the Council cannot engage in public discussions about any aspect of the case,” responded Mayor Doug French. “We would all like resolution to the matter. However, our singular focus has been to uphold our fiduciary responsibility to the citizens and not speak publicly about it. Our representatives have and will continue to communicate with the Schubert representatives as appropriate.”

Corporation Counsel Kristin Wilson directed her comments to Mr. Schubert, “Your representatives have been contacted and we’ll continue to engage them. Both sides are waiting for guidance from the Federal judge.”

Enforcement of Health Code Compliance on Hen Island

Watch for the Return of Mr. Floatie

Hen Island resident Ray Tartaglione has sued the City to compel them to complete sewage disposal inspections mandated by the Rye City Code, but the judge dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that it was up to the discretion of the City whether or not to enforce Article 161 of the City Code. Sewage disposal inspections were transferred to the County Health Department years ago.

But Mr. Tartaglione remains undeterred. “Rye, like any municipality, has discretionary enforcement powers and by not doing anything they’re enabling an entire community to avoid code compliance.”

He went on to explain that on Hen Island, drinking water is still collected from roof tops, and the pollution of Long Island Sound continues, as does the largest mosquito infestation in the county.

Mr. Tartaglione has publicly stated that if the environmental issues are not resolved, a rolling billboard pulled by the Floatiemobile van (with the distinctive toilet on the roof) will, before the fall election season, display the following message: “One of the first lessons we teach our children is where to put their effluents. Why has the Rye City Council not learned this message?” Mr. Floatie was last seen during the administration of Mayor Otis.

Mayor Doug French said, “Hen Island is a seasonal island, and with the upcoming season and now that the lawsuit against Rye has been dismissed, the City has re-engaged the County to review the status of these complaints, as it does in any other matter. The complaints range across four areas: potable water, storage and disposal of sewage, building violations, and mosquitoes. Some of the violations have been resolved, others are open and the City will meet with the affected parties prior to the new season.”

The City expects to hear back from the County within a week or two and will proceed in due course, the mayor assured Mr. Tartaglione.

Kirby Lane Sewer District

After years of planning, many meetings, and a public hearing, the City Council approved the establishment of the Kirby Lane Extension Sanitary Sewer Special Assessment District. Twenty-five of the 29 residents in that area voted to approve the measure, well above the 66 2/3% statutory requirement.

Council Amends Playland Resolution

With the deadline for the Playland RFPS March 10, the Council reviewed and did the final edit of the resolution it would send to the County. After careful consideration, the Council agreed to a statement of the primary principles and values it hopes the County will apply during its review of the Playland proposals. The resolution includes support of the Westchester Children’s


Rye Sound Shore Review – February 25, 2011

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The Honeymoon is Over
New administration faced with déjá vu


February 18, 2011

tartaglion_schubertJust when Rye City Council meetings had turned black and white, some of the city’s most colorful characters may be ready to spice up the picture. Last week’s meeting was eerily similar to those in 2009 that provided a carnival-like frenzy of discontent. During that year, Douglas French (R), as a mayoral candidate, labeled council meetings as a form of “entertainment” that he would handle differently if elected. And when former Mayor Steve Otis (D) lost a re-election bid to French that November, many of the city’s critics rejoiced. Popular belief was they would now have their day in the sun under a new administration. That hasn’t been the case. Two of Rye’s biggest combatants, Bob Schubert and Ray Tartaglione, have resurfaced recently due to the new inistration’s Apparent unwillingness to remedy their situations.

Tartaglione, a seasonal resident of Hen Island, sued the city last year claiming Rye didn’t address health and Environmental violations on the island. But the court dismissed the case earlier this month. Disappointed that the current mayor and City Council appear poised to begin what he claims is another game of “pass the buck,” he is set to unveil a new campaign. Although not quite ready to un-retire Mr. Floatie, his infamous 9-foot feces mascot, Tartaglione said one could expect its presence if things don’t change prior to the November elections.

In the meantime, viewable from a 20-foot long billboard that will be pulled by the FloatieMobile Van, a public service message will feature six of the seven members of the Rye City Council seated on commodes in front of Rye City Hall. Councilman Joe Sack (R) is being excluded from the campaign due to Tartaglione’s belief that he is the lone council member willing to discuss and debate the merits of an alleged Hen Island cover-up in public.

“It’s not that the city won’t take action,” French countered, adding that the island is currently closed. “The city believes the county is in a better position to handle this matter. They’ve agreed to look at new violations. We’re now out of court and we can move forward.” Though French said he wasn’t surprised to learn of Tartalgione’s latest tactics, he felt that the campaign was premature. “Our institutions reflect the community and I think we need to reflect our institutions,” he told us. “People who sit on the council are part of that…I think people that live in this community need to show respect. [Some] people have a different approach [but] we’ll continue to govern to reflect the will of the people and continue to respect our community.”

As for Tartaglione, he pitched his case again to the county last week hoping a new administration on the county level, and a new set of eyes will see things differently. Tartaglione has long claimed the county covered up and buried the case while former County Executive Andy Spano (D) was in office. He even took the county to court, but ultimately lost that case as well.

But gaining traction at the county level may prove a tough road since the new administration includes Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett (R), Rye City attorney at the time the Schubert and Tartaglione sagas unfolded. A phone call to the county was not returned as of press time. Schubert once engaged in a shouting match with Plunkett, but has been under a gag order since filing three lawsuits back in the summer of 2009 pertaining to the destruction of his wetland garden. The resident alleges the city improperly allowed a eighboring construction to go through without permitting. Schubert, who turns 88 in April, spoke out in disgust last week for the first time since the new majority City Council took office.

Upset with their refusal to engage him in a dialogue Schubert, a Forest Avenue resident, criticized the council last week for its “stonewalling” attempts in line with the prior administration. “This is like Germany,” he cried. “I’m being persecuted. This is like Germany… bunch of crooks. Wait until all the depositions become known and you all see what went on in the City of Rye. Thank you very much mister mayor…you sure took my check in a hurry.” French said the difference between 2009 and today is the city is now a defendant in a $5 million civil rights lawsuit leaving city officials to remain mum. “So we cannot speak on this issue,” he explained. “We came to office as defendants in a lawsuit.” The city is awaiting a judge’s ruling on its motion to dismiss the lawsuit.


NYS Supreme Court Rules Hen Island Health Codes Enforcable by City of Rye

JOURNAL NEWS – By Andrew Klappholz

January 28, 2011

RYE — A state Supreme Court justice has thrown out a petition seeking to make the city enforce health codes on Hen Island, but the ruling has both sides declaring victory.

The city had claimed that enforcement is solely the county’s responsibility, and therefore the municipality doesn’t have to do anything. Instead, Judge Barbara Zambelli found that the city had the authority to enforce the health codes, but that it was up to the discretion of municipal officials, and the municipality couldn’t be forced to do anything.

Mayor Douglas French said the decision is a validation of the city’s position. “Westchester County government has long served as the city’s health and environmental agency as they do for many local municipalities,” the mayor said. “The ruling affirms the city’s position that these matters be handled by the respective county department.”

Raymond Tartaglione, who brought the application to court with the group, said he was pleased with the findings because it acknowledged that the city does have the authority to enforce health codes if it wishes. His lawyer, Jordan Glass, said the city should exercise this newfound authority “for the benefit of its residents and visitors.”

Tartaglione, a resident of Purchase who has a cottage on Hen Island , has claimed for years that some summer residents allow sewage to seep into Long Island Sound and garbage to collect along the beach.

He has taken extreme measures to bring attention to his claims of health and environmental hazards around the summer cottages, including bringing an 8-foot-tall human waste mascot named “Mr. Floatie” to City Council meetings and driving around the “Floatie Mobile,” a 1938 Chevy outfitted with “Floatie” decals.

Tartaglione hasn’t taken these steps since the summer, but he attended Wednesday’s Council meeting and asked what the city’s response would be to the decision.

French said the board would have to review it with counsel.

Click Here to view the Court’s decision.



Both sides satisfied with Hen Island ruling

January 28, 2011

The war between Hen Island resident Ray Tartaglione and the city, which elevated into a lawsuit, has left both sides sensing déjà vu.

On Jan. 20, the state Supreme Court in White Plains ruled in favor of the city, bringing an end to the suit initiated over alleged environmental and health wrongdoings that Rye allegedly turned a blind eye to.

But Tartalgione, a seasonal city resident who doesn’t plan on appealing the decision, saw the ruling in a different light – claiming it was what he was looking for all along. “I think it’s a great decision,” he commented. “We knew all along they had discretionary enforcement. I’m happy with the decision, I think it’s terrific.”

Originally filed in court on June 7, 2010, the suit, through an Article 78, compelled the court to order the city to enforce its sewage laws as per its City Code. The city had long contested that the issues were under the direct jurisdiction of the county Health Department. The court findings leave the city with the right, if it so chooses, to enforce its law which was deemed applicable by the courts.

Issues grew out of Hen Island, a 26-acre privately owned seasonal island lying off the coast of Rye’s Milton Harbor. The island, home to 34 summer cottages, has no electricity or running water and is only accessible by boat.

Tartaglione claimed the administration of former Mayor Steve Otis (D) was “derelict in its duty to act in accordance with its local law to require that all private sewage systems bordering all watercourses…be inspected annually.” The petition also stated a complete failure to protect the ecology of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the city from raw sewage emitted from sewage systems. Tartaglione sought a declaration that the city had violated the law and be ordered to complete health inspections on the island and certify all structures.

The city filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on several grounds. Although the court found several of those without merit, it did dismiss the suit on the grounds that Tartaglione failed to state a cause of action.

Kristen Wilson, the city attorney who tried the case, said the city has no reason or intention to enforce Chapter 161-1 of the code. Also, the Rye City Council may look to revise the law and clarify language highlighted by the county as the lead in health concerns.

The court ruled that the section of the City Code in question falls on the property owner. Nowhere within that statute does it expressly state that the city has the duty to perform the inspection, instead that “the decision to enforce a municipal code rests in the discretion of the public officials charged with its enforcement.”

“We’re pleased with the ruling,” Mayor Douglas French (R) said. “[It] speaks to the fact that we’ve always believed the county is our health department and we look to them for that service.”

The mayor felt the case was over and wouldn’t be reopened. French believes the city was within its right not to enforce the code that is on its books. “We don’t have the level of expertise,” he added. “It’s part of a range of services that the county provides.”

But the court also ruled that the City Code is still applicable; it still appears on the books today and its history fails to reflect any such repeal. In addition, the court said that the county has not usurped local municipalities’ rights to pass their own regulations regarding such systems.

“Rye has been pushing this off to the county for years,” the plaintiff added. “Rye should be taking the lead in this and they’re not.”

The battle over Hen Island was one waged for years, often spilling over into the public spectrum and drawing a farcical spotlight on Rye.

In 2007, Tartaglione brought suit separately against Westchester County and Kudor Island Colony Inc., a corporation of seven shareholders who serve as the island’s governing body; both cases were dismissed. He once served as president of its governing board – and one of 34 island shareholders – but was ultimately ousted by his fellow shareholders in a power play. Since that time, the two sides have been engaged in an ongoing dispute.

Three years later, in April 2010, the city conducted an inspection of the island under the direction of then-City Manager Frank Culross, following the controversial dismissal of former City Manager Paul Shew. Numerous violations were identified for improper storage of propane tanks, excessive debris, lack of maintenance and uninspected solar panels. However, any environmental or health-related concerns were simply forwarded to the county as the city turned a deaf ear.

But in Rye, Tartaglione may be known best for enlisting “Mr. Floatie,” a human feces mascot, to aid his environmental crusade. The charade turned Rye City Council meetings through 2009-2010 into circus-like renderings with the critic pushing to unseat then-Mayor Otis from office during the 2009 election. He hoped new leadership would benefit his efforts. It didn’t. In fact, the political turnover did little to change Rye’s stance on the issue, with a new administration taking the same tact as its predecessor.

Tartaglione told The Rye Sound Shore Review on Wednesday night that he was shocked by the stance of the new administration. Particularly, since the plaintiff said one of French’s campaign promises to him during the 2009 election was to take care of the problems on the island. “One of those promises was to install environmentally friendly toilets,” he continued. “I haven’t seen one yet.”


NYS Supreme Court Rules Hen Island Health Codes Enforcable by City of Rye

January 25, 2011

RYE – On January 20, 2011 Heal The Harbor’s legal action, which attempted to require The City of Rye to simply enforce its own laws; mandating inspections of the sewage systems in Rye’s most environmentally sensitive areas including Hen Island which has been polluting The Long Island Sound for years, was rendered.

This decision is favorable to Heal The and Ray Tartaglione’s continued efforts to protect Milton Harbor and the Long Island Sound.

While the court’s decision ultimately did not compel the City of Rye to enforce its laws, the court did recognize that the City has the discretion to do so and protect the environment. Otherwise they could continue to ignore these laws and leave the environment unprotected.

More particularly the court found that the law clearly supported Mr. Tartaglione’s paramount positions including most significantly: 1) That the city has the power to enforce city code 161-1 which requires a homeowner to perform annual inspections of a private sewer system but only if the city feels the need to. 2) The court also confirmed that city code 161-1 is still a valid and enforceable law governing sewage disposal in the city of Rye, contrary to Rye’s contention that it is no longer a valid law.

The people of the City of Rye should know that the City Council has the authority and responsibility to enforce its ordinances as they relate to raw sewage pollution. The City Council continues to allow the homeowner’s of Hen Island to expel raw human effluence into the Long Island Sound, where it is free to contaminate and wash up onto the beaches of Green Haven, and Milton Point, as well as other nearby communities. The decision of whether or not to enforce the city code is left to the Mayor and City Council. When it comes to protecting the environment, this should be an easy decision for the Rye City Council. Ray Tartaglione and Heal the Harbor cannot understand why the City Council under the direction of Mayor Douglas French has been struggling with this issue for so long.

The case caption is: In the Matter of the Application of Heal the and Raymond J. Tartaglione, for a Judgment Pursuant to Article 78 of the CPLR v. The City of Rye, et. al., Index # 10/14742 (Sup.Ct., Westchester Cty., 2011).

Click Here to view the Court’s decision.


Ray Tartaglione sent the Rye City Council a well-timed letter requesting the recusal of every member of the City Council Ethics Board in any potential review of Mayor French’s STAR exemptions.

click here for original article


Westchester Guardian – January 8, 2011

click here for original article


Rye Rules Hen Island Seawall Must Come Down
LOHUD.COM – Theresa Juva
February 16, 2010

RYE – A Hen Island resident will have to tear down a 16-foot stone seawall that was built without permits several years ago.

myrye_wallimageThe Planning Commission this month refused to retroactively approve the structure, which city officials said hasn’t been properly tested for safety and violates federal, state and local laws.

Hen Island is a 26-acre private island of summer cottages near Milton Harbor. It is owned by Kuder Island Colony, a group of 34 shareholders.

Cottage resident Joann Molloy said she expanded a smaller wall on the property in 2006 after a fence fell down from beach erosion. She was concerned the rock underneath her cottage would also erode.

“I was not aware I needed a permit,” Molloy said. “When I found out I needed them, I immediately began proceedings to obtain them.”

The city slapped the property with two violations in 2007 and 2008 before Kuder Island Colony applied for a retroactive permit last year, according to documents.

The Planning Commission ruled that because the structure was already built, officials couldn’t determine if the wall was necessary.

“Constructing a substantial 16-foot-high wall that resulted in a 230 percent increase in the length of the existing wall and then seeking permission from the Commission after-the-fact denies the Commission the opportunity to consider alternatives as required by law and sets an undesirable precedent,” the commission wrote in its decision.

Molloy said she isn’t sure what she will do now.

“My main concern is that the house is built on the rock and the taking down of the wall will have a major impact on the environment and could seriously cause problems in the rock,” she said.

City planner Christian Miller and Planning Commission Chairwoman Barbara Cummings did not return phone messages. Kuder Island president Ben Minard also did not return a call seeking comment.

Violations have been found on the island before. City inspectors last year found cottages with foundation problems and improperly stored propane tanks near shrubs that could spread fire.


Rye City to Hen Island resident: Tear Down That Wall! 
MYRYE.COM – Government in Rye
February 8, 2010

RYE – There goes $90,000.

myrye_wallimageIn a resolution adopted last week and signed by Rye City Planner Christian Miller, the Rye City Planning Commission is requiring Joann Molloy, owner of the Molloy Cottage, one of 34 homes on Hen Island, to remove a massive 16 foot high sea wall that was built without city, state or federal permits. According to sources the wall cost over $90,000 to install and Hen Island shareholders have spent another $50,000 working to legalize the structure.

The ruling from the Planning Commission, a four page document, says in part:

“Constructing a substantial 16-foot high wall that resulted in a 230% increase in length of the existing wall and then seeking permission from the Commission after-the-fact denies the Commission the opportunity to consider alternatives as required by law and sets an undesirable precedent.”

The move by the Planning Commission is a victory for Hen Island resident and Rye City agitator Ray Tartaglione. Tartaglione is behind Mr. Floatie and has been a regular at city council meetings over the last couple years. Last April, Rye City issued violations for various fire code and structural issues with homes.

Tartaglione told “In 2007 before the Otis administration started the cover-up the City issued a violation for constructing the wall without a permit. When I asked the building department in 2008 what happened to the violation issued in 2007 why wasn’t the Island in court? They told me the City lost the violation.

After repeated pressure from me, the city finally brought the Island to court for their actions. They were directed by the court to apply to the planning board for permits to legalize the illegal structure. Last week the planning Commission rejected the application because no one could attest to the structural integrity and safety of the wall.”


Rye’s longest-serving mayor reflects on 12 eventful years

JOURNAL NEWS – January 3, 2010

RYE — From rehabilitated firehouses and new places in which to play to a battle over a pond and island, the last 12 years have been anything but dull for the city’s longest-serving mayor.

“I would say that the focus for today is on a 12-year body of work. That is what is going to stand up, not distractions of a smaller proportion,” former Mayor Steve Otis, a Democrat, said last week.

Republican Doug French was sworn in as the new mayor on Friday.

Newcomers Suzanna Keith, Richard Filippi and Peter Jovanovich will join him on the City Council. Otis’ last year in office had its challenges. There was relentless 86-year-old Bob Schubert, who fought with the City Council over city-permitted work that he claimed dried up his natural pond. And there was Ray Tartaglione, who attended City Council meetings with a giant human waste mascot, alleging environmental problems on Hen Island.

Still, Otis, 53, said he chooses to focus on the city’s progress during his tenure, such as creating three more athletic fields, expanding the duck pond at Rye Town Park, making traffic improvements on Boston Post Road and revamping the Milton Point firehouse.

“What I know I did bring to the city was innovation, productivity and an ability to keep the city in strong financial shape in good economic times and bad,” Otis said, adding he helped secure county, state and federal grants for many projects. That included $695,000 for Safe Routes to Schools, a program that will improve crosswalks and sidewalks for children walking to school.

But there were snags along the way. In 2003, outgoing City Manager Julia Novak claimed that Otis interfered with her job, leading to her sudden departure.

And in November’s election, Otis was criticized for the four city manager changes in the past eight years. This year, the City Council removed Paul Shew from his duties after five years.

“I think the challenge is always to have a person in the manager’s position that is following the policies of the elected officials and of the community,” Otis said. “Where we needed to make changes, we made changes.”

Otis said he also doesn’t regret how he handled the cases of Schubert and Tartaglione. “I think I fulfilled the task of maintaining the dignity of the community and the dignity of the City Council, despite the times when people who came before us would seek to diminish those standards,” he said.

Otis, who lives on Linden Street with his wife and two Labrador retrievers, said he will stay busy out of public office. He works as head counsel and chief of staff for state Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer and is an active member of groups such as the New York State Conservation Commission and the Westchester County Flood Action Committee.

“I care deeply about what happens to the future of Rye, and I wish the new council to do well,” he said.


The Journal News
September 25, 2009

Hen Island critic accuses shareholders of trying to kick him off island

RYE  - Hen Island’s gadfly claims the island’s shareholders are trying to kick him out by enacting a law that would revoke his cottage license for “objectionable conduct.”

“They are desperate people trying to do desperate things,” Ray Tartaglione said of the proposed amendment that will be voted on next month.

Tartaglione, 54, has complained for years that summer residents on the 26-acre island owned by Kuder Island Colony Inc. allow sewage to seep into the Long Island Sound, leave trash on the beach and collect rainwater to bathe and wash dishes.

Though a state Supreme Court justice ruled last year that the waste system on the island was adequate, Tartaglione insists there are environmental and health hazards there.

In a persistent effort to publicize his charges, Tartaglione shows up at City Council meetings with an 8-foot human waste mascot, named “Mr. Floatie,” and drives around in an antique vehicle dubbed the “Floatie Mobile,” with decals of the mascot.

The 1938 Chevy was the target of a rash of vandalism recently when it was spray-painted and rammed and had its windows smashed in separate incidents.

Tartaglione said the proposed bylaw is another attempt to shut down his campaign. The law would revoke a cottage license if a shareholder’s occupancy is considered “undesirable” by two-thirds of shareholders. An additional amendment would make ousted licensees responsible for Kuder Island’s legal fees if they fight the action.

“I don’t think they’ll be successful in passing it,” Tartaglione said. “And if they are, they are opening themselves up to another lawsuit if they try to remove me. My behavior on Hen Island and in the city of Rye is not questionable.”

Ben Minard, president of Kuder Island Colony, declined to comment on the proposed bylaw. He also declined to comment on Tartaglione’s claims that fellow shareholders are behind the vandalism.

Tartaglione has also accused the city of targeting him when it tried to tighten a parking law that would make it easier to tow his Chevy. The City Council deferred a vote on the change, which would let police tow any vehicle that is parked on a Rye street for more than 48 hours. Council members argued that it would inconvenience commuters who travel out of town and park their cars.


Hen Island advocate goads Rye
APRIL 29, 2009

RYE – He can easily be mistaken for a giant peanut or an alien creature, but the real identity of “Mr. Floatie” is much more shocking.

“He’s an 8-foot turd and he gets your attention – not in a way you want to, but he gets your attention and does the job,” said Ray Tartaglione, who regularly attends Rye City Council meetings with the mascot.

Mr. Floatie, who wears a sailor hat, bow tie and pasted-on grin, and “Jack A.,” a blazer-wearing donkey, represent safety and environmental issues on Hen Island, a 26-acre private island off Rye’s shore.

Tartaglione, 54, a resident of Purchase who has a cottage on the island, has claimed for years that some summer residents allow sewage to seep into Long Island Sound and garbage to collect along the beach. He launched a Web site named that documents his claims with photos and videos.

Videos with whimsical tunes star Mr. Floatie hugging and high-fiving Rye residents and driving a motorboat. Supporters Justin Flick of Yonkers and Phil Buttaci of Tuckahoe dress in the costumes, but declined to be interviewed.

Tartaglione has had mixed success in his battle. Last year, a state judge ruled that the island’s trash and septic systems were adequate, but it has not stopped Tartaglione from pressing the city to do its own inspections, instead of relying on the county Department of Health. His fight was given a boost this month when city inspectors found some cottages had fire- and building-safety violations.

He thinks the mascots have helped his case. Jack A., the donkey that represents the “stubborn” position of officials, was recently retired in a dramatic presentation in front of the City Council that ended with him leaving an olive branch.

“I think they want to get Mr. Floatie and Jack A. out of the meetings because it’s a circus,” Tartaglione said. “They are uncomfortable with them there.”

The characters have been controversial. Two Rye police officers had to order that they change their seats at a recent meeting when Tartaglione refused to move them from blocking a camera that tapes the proceeding.

Still, few people seem fazed by the bizarre figures when they amble into City Hall and participate in the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings.

“Everyone has a right to express themselves,” Councilman Joe Sack said. “They are there to provoke a reaction, so if you react a certain way, you are fueling the fire.”

Mayor Steve Otis calls them “counterproductive,” but said he wants to maintain civil interactions.

“I don’t have control over what people say and how they present themselves,” Otis said. “I care that we maintain a level of decorum that is appropriate to our community.”

Councilman Andy Ball believes the characters have been damaging, writing in an e-mail that “the community has to come to feel that their presence seriously demeans the public discourse.”

Resident Ashley Craig says the characters are distracting when citizens stand at the podium to address the Council, and the characters are in the background of the TV broadcast.

Tartaglione has accused city officials of removing chairs so the mascots cannot sit near the podium; Otis has denied the claim.

“They don’t want (residents) to see an 8-foot turd and a jackass on TV at home,” Tartaglione said. “They tried to suppress it.”

Tartaglione plans to address the City Council at 8 p.m. today.


Hen Island cottage owners vow to clean up
APRIL 18, 2009

RYE – Hen Island cottage owners are defending the safety and upkeep of their summer retreat after the city slapped them with violations this week.

Ira Goldenberg, an attorney for Kuder Island Colony, the corporation of 34 shareholders, did not dispute the fire and building safety problems city inspectors found during an April 1 visit.

“We apologize these issues have come to this point, and we intend to resolve it promptly,” he told the City Council on Wednesday, adding that owners had already planned to address some of the problems when they return to the island in the next few weeks.

Violations included improper propane tank storage, cottage wall and foundation problems, and shrubs and debris next to buildings that could spread a fire. Rye also sent a letter to the county environmental health commissioner asking him to re-evaluate possible health violations there.

Hen Island homeowner Helen Cunningham said the recent city review was an unfair depiction of the 26-acre island, which sits near Milton Harbor and is accessible only by water.

“We are keeping it as best we can for a wetlands area, and what you saw is not what is generally there,” said Cunningham, a cottage owner for 27 years.

Kuder Colony board President Ben Minard said residents understand safety concerns in a place with no fire or police protection. “We do not want anything that endangers anyone,” he said from Syracuse, where he lives. “We understand our vulnerability.”

City officials examined the area after homeowner Ray Tartaglione, the plaintiff in a pending lawsuit against Kuder Colony, complained that the city wasn’t monitoring health and safety conditions there.

Even though a judge ruled against him last year, Tartaglione still claims that some property owners fail to properly dispose of trash and allow sewage to seep into Long Island Sound. County health inspectors and city officials surveyed the island in July 2007 and reported no problems.

Mayor Steve Otis said Wednesday that acting City Manager Frank Culross had discovered that the City Council had been misled by then-City Manager Paul Shew, who was removed by the City Council last month.”We had been advised that a fuller inspection had been done,” Otis said. “Mr. Culross brought it to our attention that that was not accurate and we were misinformed.”

Jordan Glass, Tartaglione’s attorney, pressed the council to take another look at possible health code violations, arguing that Rye has the authority to regulate waste disposal on the island.

Goldenberg fired back, pointing out that a judge has never sided with Tartaglione, who has been angry with Kuder Colony since he was ousted from the board several years ago. “As you can see, it is difficult to know his motivation,” Goldenberg said. “The reality is, whatever Kuder Island tries to do, he will be unhappy.”

Rye is still waiting for a response from the county environmental health commissioner.


City finds violations on Hen Island – Prior inspections weren’t performed as reported
By Christian Falcone – Rye Sound Shore Review
April 17, 2009

A recent city inspection of the much-publicized Hen Island has revealed numerous violations. The city has asked the county to address additional concerns falling under their jurisdiction.

On April 1, the city performed an inspection of the 26-acre privately owned island lying off Milton Harbor on the Long Island Sound and subsequently issued several violations to Kudor Island Colony Inc., a corporation made up of seven island inhabitants. The city also sent a letter to Westchester County’s commissioner of environmental health asking to look into alleged health and environmental violations; there has been no response yet and the county has been silent on the issue since a controversial 2007 inspection of the site.

The seasonal inlet serves as a quaint summer home to 34 property owners but in recent years has instead become a floating controversy due to the persistent urging of property owner Ray Tartaglione. The remote island has no electricity or running water and is only accessible by boat; inhabitants typically don’t take to the island until May.

Violations identified by the city were improper storage of propane tanks, excessive debris, lack of shed maintenance, installation of un-inspected solar panels and a windmill, woodpiles in violation of the city’s wetlands code and structurally unsound cottages.

Yet, prior that to inspection the council had been relying solely on information provided by suspended City Manager Paul Shew. Indications were that inspections had taken place and no violations were reported. However, Frank Culross, the city’s interim manager, said they were geared more toward permitting and compliance, case specific things. “The scope of information was narrower than what you were asking for and what we as a council thought occurred,” Mayor Steve Otis said.

Tartaglione, of Mr. Floatie fame and the public advocate pushing for possible environmental violations to be righted, has lived on the island since 1997. He’s continued to press the issue to the Rye City Council for months, prodding them to re-examine the case and charging the city with covering up violations.

Tartaglione says the cover up initiated out of the office of Kevin Plunkett, a city attorney, in directing the city manger to provide false information. The resident claims that separate litigation, in Dobbs Ferry, involving the two parties has led Plunkett to try to discredit him. “I don’t think Paul Shew was the scapegoat,” Tartaglione told the council. “I think he was the sacrificial lamb.” Nonetheless, inhabitants of Hen Island are protesting Tartaglione’s latest attacks. Ira Goldenberg, a Kudor Island attorney, characterized it as a case of sour grapes after Tartaglione had been ousted as one-time president of the island’s board of directors and later removed from that board altogether. “This is not a one-time incident but rather a larger attempt to seek a forum where he can,” the attorney claims. “Whenever he has been swatted down he goes somewhere else.”

Goldenberg says the property owner has initiated frivolous lawsuits against board members on repeated occasions and the most recent suit against the island’s shareholders, which Tartaglione is currently appealing, alleges mosquito infestation, improper sewage treatment seeping into the sound, potable water use and unsanitary living conditions. The court upheld the findings of the county which didn’t identify any violations during their previously referenced inspection.

In further defense, shareholder Helen Cunningham said what was seen upon inspection is generally not how the island looks, explaining that most residents currently do not inhabit the island. She said her fellow islanders are respectful of the area. “The land would be much dirtier if without us on it,” Cunningham added.

The mayor said the dialogue will continue and the city will wait for a reply from the county.


Catch Basin in the Rye 
RYE, NY — April 14, 2009

A summer colony of cottages in Mamaroneck Harbor (and a man dressed as a giant singing turd) have finally received the attention of health inspectors.

041409_ryemapThe City of Rye has found fire safety and building code violations at Hen Island. Hen Island property owner Ray Tartaglione (aka “Mr. Floatie “–yes, he’s even on YouTube ) has been pressing the City and County about these issues for years. He tells theLoop, “Rye has finally admitted they made mistakes on previous inspections. They have now agreed there are serious violations present on Hen Island. They have also asked the Westchester County Health Department to reevaluate their previous position.”

From MyRye, April 14, 2009


Rye City Finally Gives a Crap About Hen Island, Demands Clean-Up
My Rye – April 14, 2009

In a remarkable turn of events, Rye City finally seems to give a cr*p about Hen Island.

In letters to Kuder Island Colony, Inc.(the cooperative that owns the 34 homes on the island) and the Westchester Division of Environmental Health, Rye City officials discuss actual and alleged health, environmental and building code violations on the island. For issues under their jurisdiction, the city has demanded remediation. Excerpts from the letter and the actual documents are below.

Attention to the Hen Island and allegations of leaking sewage into Long Island Sound has been brought to life by island homeowner Ray Tartaglione and Mr. Floatie, a seven foot turd that serves as the mascot of Tartaglione’s advocacy group, Heal the Harbor. The island, sans its problems, is a remarkably beautiful place in Rye’s Milton Harbor.

041409b_image2Still, Ben Minard, the president of Kuder Island Colony, issued fighting words about Tartaglione in an email to fellow Hen Islanders on April 14th. Tartaglione has had a contentious relationship and ongoing legal battle with fellow homeowners for years.

In Minard’s email he says: “Today, we were notified that the City of Rye has issued a violation against Hen Island based upon their visit to the island on April 1st, 2009. As you will recall from our shareholder meeting on April 7th, the Board informed you that the Island was under attack by Mr. Tartaglione and that he was making every effort to damage the Corporation and through it, you the shareholders. In support of that, I am forwarding to you for your review a copy (below) of the spiteful and scurrilous accusations that Mr. Tartaglione is making against your individual cottages.

On Wednesday evening, April 15th, members of the board will be at the Rye City Council meeting to represent us. Any of you who would be interested in attending, would be more than welcome, to support the Island and your corporation.”

The First Letter to Kuder Island Colony
In a letter to Kudder Island Colony on April 8, 2009, Rye City’s building inspector Vincent Tamburo itemized at least eight violations across many of the homes on the island. These violations, all under Rye jurisdiction, include fire code violations around the unsafe storage of propane tanks, structures in need or repair and possible structural issues with four of the homes.

The letter concludes: “You are hereby notified of the above conditions and are directed to correct them immediately. A follow up inspection will be necessary. It is sincerely hoped that further action by this department will not be necessary and that you will cooperate in correcting these conditions.”

The Second Letter to the Westchester Division of Environmental Health
In a second letter to Deputy Commissioner Leonard Meyerson of the Westchester Division of Environmental Health dated April 9, 2009, Rye’s acting city manager Frank Culross forwards a three page list of “alleged violations… submitted to us by Mr. Ray Tartaglione”. It references the April 8th letter (above) and notes that many of the matters are under the jurisdiction of Westchester County. The letter says “We respectfully request that your agency undertake a review of these matter under your jurisdiction and take whatever action you deem appropriated.”

041409b_image1The most serious allegations are under county jurisdiction including improper sewage controls, rodent infestations, lack of potable water and mosquito infestations. According to Tartaglione, Deputy Commissioner Leonard Meyerson has been completely unresponsive in the past.

Tartaglione told “Although the city of Rye has written violations that are very significant the sewage and potable water issues have not been addressed as of yet. I do commend the City for taking a giant forward step in rectifying the Hen Island conflict and hope that we can continue the forward motion. Hopefully Deputy Commissioner Lenny Meyerson and the Westchester County Department of Health will also reconsider their previous position. Should he refuse to do so, the city of Rye has the authority along with the laws and codes to force compliance should the health commissioner fail once again.”


Rye City Council Throws City Manager Overboard
March 20, 2009

No Man is an Island… Unless He’s Cast Adrift — Rye Mayor Steven Otis and members of the Rye City Council have thrown the first of their companions in the rudderless lifeboat overboard.

City manager Paul Shew is the first but may not be the last council constituent to be jettisoned … The reason for the firing, according to the council, was Shew’s, “failure to communicate” with the council and the mayor on projects.

But many who have followed the debate over Bob Schubert’s wetlands garden, as well as the city council’s other environmental missteps (e.g. Hen Island), believe otherwise.  Shew’s highly questionable decision to sic the Westchester County Department of Mental Health on Schubert is more likely the real cause for his being deep-sixed.

Shew claims he called the psychiatric crisis center because he was, “concerned about Schubert’s mental health.”  So concerned that he did not return a single one of Mr. Schubert’s phone calls to him the week before.  Mr. Shew, who apparently thought he had the ability to determine another person’s sanity and who then misused his authority by taking formal action against Bob Schubert, will now have ample time rethink his behavior.

Other council members may want to rethink theirs as well.   Since 2006, Mr. Schubert has been standing up for his rights and asking that his wetlands issue be properly looked into.   At a Rye city council meeting this February one female member’s response to Schubert’s well-founded requests was the feckless admonition that, “you shouldn’t sully your reputation”!  Reputations are, indeed, on the line here, but Bob Schubert’s is not among them.

This is indicative not only of this particular council member’s slender grasp of the issue but also of the council’s attitude as a whole to what’s important to the community.  Are they oblivious or obstructionist?  But bigger questions loom.

Can Shew have acted alone in this instance?  Is it possible that any city manager anywhere would be allowed to make such a drastic unilateral decision?  On the Schubert issue and many others, what, if any, support or encouragement did Shew get from the mayor, the city attorney, other council members?

To borrow from John Donne: No man (or city manager) is an island entire of itself. As city manager, Shew must have worked in concert with the Mayor, Rye city council, and Rye city attorney to conduct the city’s business.  In time, some of them may learn — as Mr. Shew has — what it’s like to be cast away …


Letter to the Editor
Westchester Guardian

March 11, 2009

When elected officials fail to implement environmental laws there must be a reason. Occasionally the reason is that these officials will not (or cannot) defy the vested interests of influential individuals. Often, politicians make human mistakes but are afraid to face the political and economic consequences of redressing those mistakes.

And sometimes the truth lies somewhere in between.

Take the case of Mr. Robert Schubert. In the summer of 2006 his wetlands garden dried up when the city of Rye allowed a neighbor to install a dry well where none had previously existed. Rye’s naturalist at that time, Chantal Detlefs (who was away when the permitting error was first made), has since categorically stated, “The only way the dry well does not require a Wetland Permit would be if one already existed in the exact same location at the exact same depth and size, etc.”

(cf: Letter from Ms. Detlefs dated 02/18/09 to Rye City Mayor Otis & Council Members)

Despite the clear fact that the city of Rye failed to follow through on appropriate wetlands permitting with regards to Mr. Schubert’s garden — a simple error which should have been speedily rectified — the Rye City Council has drawn out this process for more than three years. Why?

During this time Mr. Schubert has been diligently trying to get the problem solved; apparently a nuisance to the city council. In a bizarre “act of concern and compassion” for Schubert, Paul Shew, Rye City Manager, actually called the Westchester County Crisis Team to “evaluate” him. Schubert contends this was done in an attempt to silence him at council meetings. Only now, with a groundswell of public outrage in support of Mr. Schubert, is the city council making any headway towards resolving this situation. Yet still at the February 25, 2009, meeting Shew had the temerityto declare public interest and support for Schubert, “just a publicity stunt.”

The question is why?

Are legitimate environmental issues too unimportant for Rye government to address? They shouldn’t be. That’s what more and more people concerned about protecting the environment for future generations want their cities and towns to do.

So the question remains: why do environmental codes get short shrift? Similar questions hover with respect to Rye’s Hen Island. This 25-acre, privately owned island in Milton Harbor has been the subject of scrutiny by concerned locals, government officials and environmental groups such as Long Island Soundkeeper headed by Terry Backer. Few, if any, safety, sanitary or building codes are enforced on Hen Island.

The question is why?

Why, for instance, was Ron Gatto, the eminent lead investigator of the Westchester County Environmental Enforcement Unit, removed from the Hen Island case after he reported environmental, safety and health issues serious enough to close the island? Or should we ask “who” removed him?

Why did Gatto’s successor to the Hen Island case, Westchester County Deputy HealthCommissioner Len Meyerson, find no such health issues even though some open, untreated sewage pits exist less than 10 feet from the shoreline? According to Meyerson, two inspections determined no sewage was leaking into Long Island Sound. When queried by a local reporter he glossed over the issue thusly: “…Mother Earth is the best way of making sure that the pollutants are removed from human waste — from sanitary waste water.”

In other words, once sewage effluents are diluted by the Sound, there’s no problem. Is this an appropriate attitude for a public health official in one of the most affluent counties in the U.S.?

At the moment questions outnumber answers. To get answers, more concerned citizensneed to bring pressure to bear on public officials. Insist on candor and transparency. Refuse to be brushed aside with platitudes and double-talk. Keep asking them “Why?” environmental laws and health codes are being ignored.

Thank you for your interest but, most of all, thank you for caring about Hen Island, our harbors, our waters and the environment—so precious to us all.

Ray Tartaglione 

September 8, 2008

You See the Strangest Things in Rye
(view the actual web story by clicking here)

Sunday evening Mr. Floatie was embraced by residents along the sidewalks of Purchase Street.


He told the very young he was a peanut, the adults figured out the truth. The high school and college kids hugged him and took cell phone pictures with him. He handed out Floatie bars and business cards written on toilet paper.

Heal The Harbor said: “All in all he was very successful in drawing attention to our website and all that is being ignored on Hen Island by officials in Rye.”


from Mr. Floatie’s press release:

Mr. Floatie and his vehicle are parked on high traveled roads and frequently visited shopping centers iin an effort to expose all the environmental woes and unsafe conditions present in Milton and Mamaroneck Harbors today.

Mr. Floatie is a loveable environmentalist and advocate for clean water. He is child-friendly, non-confrontational, and devoted to clean-water awareness. Mr. Floatie is tall, dark and handsome and wears a bright yellow sailor’s hat.

His mission is to meet as many people as possible and draw attention to the cause, which concerns all of us: a safe environment. Mr. Floatie is not here to create unpleasant controversy or bad feelings. He is fun loving and friendly and likes to give out high-five handshakes and Mr. Floatie Hershey bars.

In the next few weeks, you’ll be seeing the start of our Mr. Floatie Campaign in Rye and other Long Island Sound Shore communities. Mr. Floatie will be appearing live at special events to promote clean water, community health, and to spread the word about conditions on Hen Island in Rye, NY. He will be seen on the main land as well as boating along the shores of the sound. You’ll also see his smiling face adorning the sides of the “Floatie Mobile,” a sleek, blue 1938 Chevy parked around town in strategic locations.

We hope and encourage everyone to embrace Mr. Floatie as the true environmentalist that he is and would like everyone to share in the experience of helping the environment in a fun way.


September 18, 2008

Seven Foot Turd in Downtown Rye
(view the actual web story by clicking here)

You can’t make this stuff up.


Back in July, Hen Island homeowner Ray Tartaglione told about Mr. Floatie, “a seven foot turd that will soon be walking up and down on Purchase street greeting residents handing out Hershey bars an business cards, bringing attention to all the issues on Hen Island that have been ignored for years.”


If you went to Starbucks on to pick-up a latte or to Victoria’s Secret to pick-up something else on Sunday evening September 7th you saw that Tartaglione keeps his word. Walking up and down Purchase Street in downtown Rye was Mr. Floatie, Tartaglione’s smelly poster child for the problems plaguing Hen Island in Milton Harbor.

August 23, 2008

Catch Basin In The Rye, Number 2
(view the actual web story by clicking here)

Senator Oppenhimer, how can you claim to be a friend of the environment when you and Mayor Otis Continue to allow the residents of Hen Island to pollute the waters of the Long Island Sound and ignore health and safety codes put in place to protect the people?


I understand that last week in Rye, mosquito’s tested positive for the West Nile Virus. Why Senator are you and the Mayor allowing Hen Island residents to store thousands of gallons of water thus creating breeding pools and again jeopardizing the health and safety of our families?

—rye risherman

August 6, 2008

Hen Island – Photos of Dubious Septic Systems
(view the actual web story by clicking here)

Hen Island captures the imagination. Just a short boat ride from Rye’s “mainland” it seems a world away. It seems like an idyllic place.


Then you see how most of the 34 homes on the island handle human sewage (they don’t). The septic systems (if you can call them that) are crude at best and in many cases just feet away from the Long Island Sound. One would be hard pressed to believe any of us land lubbers would get away with such creative plumbing anywhere else in the city of Rye.


View’s photo album of Hen Island’s problems. Maybe not, but perhaps Westchester County and Rye City should call for some basic testing as requested from the Long Island Soundkeeper Terry Backer and confirm these systems meet all code requirements.

August 4, 2008

Hen Island Photos – Rye’s “Untamed” Island
(view the actual web story by clicking here)

The New York Times story this past weekend said it best – Hen Island in Rye’s Milton harbor is “Untamed”. Take a walk around the three islands and 30 acres – north, middle and south – that compose Hen Island, also known as Kuder Island, by viewing’s Hen Island photo album.


In subsequent stories, will show you pictures of trouble brewing in paradise and a spot you can have of your very own on Hen Island for only $499,000.



New York Times
August 3, 2008

An Island, Untamed and Divided
(view the actual web story by clicking here)

TO some eyes, it’s a piece of paradise, a tree-covered island on Long Island Sound with sculptured stone outcroppings shadowed by ancient maples and pines. The silence is stunning, the only sounds coming from jets high overhead and squawking gulls. The island is 30 acres at low tide, and the soft, damp earth is studded with clam and oyster shells. For the 34 homeowners whose small and simple houses dot the land, Hen Island is their refuge, for some a childhood relic passed down through family. Houses come up for public sale only every decade or so.

Ten minutes from Rye by motorboat, the enclave of privately owned cottages remains deliberately and determinedly primitive, with no running water, electricity or sewage systems. Light and heat are provided through individually owned generators or through propane, stored outside homes in tall tanks. There are no roads and no year-round residents.

The homeowners, a mix of blue-collar workers and professionals from Westchester and Rockland Counties and upstate who typically visit only on weekends, consider the island a haven from their busy everyday lives. There are no property lines, and many of the homes have been in their families for decades.

But the tranquillity is threatened by a bitter and protracted dispute over the island’s future.

Ray Tartaglione, a homeowner here for 11 years, has challenged the way of life by insisting that the city and the county provide sewage and water and ensure there is no sewage leaking into the Sound. Mr. Tartaglione, who formerly served on the seven-member board of the island’s homeowners corporation, including a stint as president, has filed three lawsuits since 2003, against the co-op and the city, over what he contends are unsafe and unsanitary conditions and violations of zoning laws.

Mr. Tartaglione, who said he has spent “lots and lots” of money on the lawsuits, speaks with the emotion of a disappointed suitor. “I love that place, and I’m not walking away from it,” said Mr. Tartaglione, 54, who owns a White Plains auto towing and repair company. “I love nature. I love the water. I love the outside. It takes my breath away every single time I get there. I think it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. But you fall in love and find out it’s not what you expected.”

What Mr. Tartaglione argues is progress, the current co-op board president, Ben Minard, calls a threat to the future of the island.

“Right now, the island is undeveloped,” said Mr. Minard, 63, a financial planner who lives near Syracuse and is the son of one of the colony’s founders. “We don’t want to be developed.” Utilities could be brought in, he said, “but we the board, and we the shareholders, don’t want any part of this.”

The island’s history has been calm before now. In 1661, an Indian chief sold the island to a New England settler, John Budd, whose grandson sold it in 1745 to John Jay. After World War II, about eight men established themselves as summer residents and in 1952 formed a holding company called the Kuder Island Colony Corporation, named for the first married couple to move onto Hen Island.

Owners of the homes on the island receive police, fire and other services from Rye and pay taxes to the city, based on the size of their houses. Residents pay annual dues, which vary, to the homeowners corporation to maintain the island.

Mr. Tartaglione first sued the corporation over what he felt were unsanitary conditions like collecting rainwater in cisterns that is used for showers and washing dishes. That suit was dismissed but is being appealed, said his lawyer, Steven Gaines. He also sued the corporation over what he believed to be an overassessment of fees. Another suit focuses on zoning laws in connection with the construction of a home on the island.

Some homeowners, like Claudio Iodice, 65, a commercial real estate developer in Montebello, N.Y., are fed up with the infighting and the conditions on the island. He has put his Hen Island house up for sale, asking $415,000 for the 800-square-foot home he has owned for 12 years.

Mr. Iodice said it took six or seven years to clean the property of accumulated bottles and other debris. The island has become infested with mosquitoes, residents’ sewage is going into the Sound and propane tanks are unsafe, he said. “I won’t let my grandkids go out there,” he said.

Peter Barotz, 80, a 25-year homeowner there who lives in New Rochelle, is not selling but is also frustrated by the disputes and the lack of resolutions. “If you don’t look ahead, a disaster occurs; people aren’t addressing the real issues,” he said, naming the same concerns as Mr. Iodice. “Ray is angry and hurt. Everything was done because he wanted a more beautiful place.”

There appears a deep schism between those who like things the way they have always been and those who hoped for a tidier, more manicured Hen Island.

“It was the most unsafe place you’ve ever seen,” Mr. Iodice said of the island’s appearance when he bought his home. “You say to yourself, ‘I can clean it up,’ but some old-timers don’t want to fix anything.”

Mr. Barotz said, “I expected the island would eventually become upscale.”

But many of the homeowners do not agree with Mr. Tartaglione. Mr. Minard, the board president, said that of 16 families who live on the northern part of the island, 10 now get along with Mr. Tartaglione.

Mr. Tartaglione said, “I’d say about 24 or 25 of the 34 don’t like me.”

Mr. Minard, a part-time resident of Hen Island for 60 years, contends that Mr. Tartaglione would “like to control the island.”

Leonard S. Meyerson, deputy commissioner of environmental health for Westchester, said, “It’s definitely a neighborhood fight.” He said that he inspected the island in July and August 2007 and that members of his staff also visited on two other occasions to check for unsanitary conditions.

“There are definitely systems in place that in the modern world, scrutinized by an engineer, would not be acceptable,” he said. But he said he and his staff never found problems like sewage emerging, odors or slime or algal growth in the water. “We went time and time and time again,” Mr. Meyerson said, “and we found no health code violations.”

Mr. Meyerson said it was ultimately the responsibility of the corporation and the board to regulate themselves. “This is a private property, and you have to respect their private property rights,” he said. “It’s a balancing act.”

Not every homeowner is embroiled in the dispute. Helen Tierney, 62, a visiting nurse who lives in Mamaroneck and owns a home on the island, just wants to sell her house. Her 900-square-foot house on the southernmost tip on the island, with clear views of the Empire State Building, is on the market for $499,000. She recently dropped the price by $100,000.

Mrs. Tierney has owned the house for nine years. Her late husband, Patrick Tierney, made many improvements to the property and the house, she said.

“It was literally falling down,” she said. “He brought out tons and tons of topsoil, mulch and plants, quite a lot if you’re bringing it all out by boat. He loved the place, but I don’t want to go out there without my husband.

“People get away with things they shouldn’t get away with,” Mrs. Tierney said when asked to characterize the infighting. She recalled that when Mr. Tartaglione got on the board, he said, “ ‘No, it shouldn’t be like this.’ ”

“In some ways, he’s right,” Mrs. Tierney said. “There has been preferential treatment. It’s like a little microcosm in the middle of nowhere.”

July 23, 2008

RYE – Long Island Soundkeeper Calls for Testing on Hen Island 
(view the actual web story by clicking here)

Long Island Soundkeeper, a 20 year old environmental organization dedicated “to the protection and enhancement of the biological, physical, and chemical integrity of Long Island Sound and its watershed” made the following statement regarding environmental testing on Rye’s Hen Island.

Hen Island has been the subject of local controversy regarding alleged pollution coming from some island homeowners. reported rumors that the New York Times may be planning to report on the situation. Soundkeeper and Executive Director Terry Backer told “I have seen many applications for toilet water disposal as at Hen Island and more often than not they leach into the Sound. Testing would resolve the matter and I think (it) should be done.”

Statement of Soundkeeper Terry Backer 
(regarding testing for Hen Island) “Soundkeeper has been watching the Hen Island situation very closely for the past year. We feel, as previously mentioned, that the effluent from Hen Island have only one place to go and that is into the Long Island Sound. The County of Westchester Health Department and The City of Rye are the agencies responsible for policing and testing the septic systems that are in place on Hen Island. If the Westchester County Health Department along with the City of Rye would agree to flow test and dye test the systems in place and should they all pass testing procedures, we would agree that no further action would be necessary. Long Island Sound is to important to us all to allow this situation to go on unresolved. Simple testing would put this matter to rest on way or the other. We strongly encourage the Country and the City to require appropriate testing.”

–Terry Backer, Soundkeeper

July 8, 2008

RYE – The Hen Island Dispute and Mr. Floatie 
(view the actual web story by clicking here)

The following response to comments made by Hen Island homeowner Mike Johnson were provided to by fellow Hen Island homeowner Ray Tartaglione. Tartaglione is in a dispute with Rye City and other Hen Island homeowners regarding alleged poor environmental conditions on the island.

Tartaglione is behind the web site and Mr. Floatie, a “a seven foot turd that will soon be walking up and down on Purchase street greeting residents handing out Hershey bars an business cards, bringing attention to all the issues on Hen Island that have been ignored for years,” according to Tartaglione.

Original Comment by Mike Johnson

It’s a shame one individual, Ray Tartaglione, posing as someone who cares about Milton Harbor and Rye, NY, is continuing his childish, hurtful and untrue rants about Hen Islanders’ and Mayor Otis’ neglect of laws pertaining to the enviornment….This individual, who has summered on Hen Island, by the way, for the past 9 years, without mentioning anything about pollution or the City of Rye, transparently began his campaign when the shareholders of Kuder Island (Hen Island) voted him out as an officer as well as a board member….He now has disguised his hatred for the Hen Islanders with a lamb’s clothing of “caring for the harbor”…It’s painfully obvious to anyone who visits his Heal the Harbor website, he is only promoting his positions with regard to everything BUT the harbor….His website is littered with untruths….If you see his Mr. Floatie car parked on Milton Rd., and he’s in it, ask him what his beef is…..I guarantee you, after listening to him rant you’ll come to realize what lots of others know about him….Perhaps you should go to (NY Times Link) and read the New York Times article, which contains an interview of Mr. Tartaglione, wherein he does nothing but promote the wonderfulness of Hen Island…The article was done in 2001, PRIOR to his removal from the Kuder Island Board of Directors….

I grew up in Rye, NY..My father, H. Clay Johnson, was once Mayor of Rye….It’s a place I love…Hen Island is a place I’ve been going to for over 30 years…Read the NYT article and make your own decision about Mr. Tartaglione…..

– Mike Johnson

Response by Ray Tartaglione 

In response to Mike Johnson’s concerns and comments, my position and beliefs are these:

Mayor Otis. The Mayor is neglecting and covering up the present issues on Hen Island. Hen Island since inception has not been required to comply with any health, safety, building or environmental standards as set forth in the Rye City Code. Go to the Building Department and see if there are any electrical, plumbing or health department approvals on file. You will find only one electrical permit and that was issued in June before the electrical system was completely installed??? Last year, four Certificates of Occupancies were issued on Hen Island. Also last year, one resident was issued a violation for building a 20’ high retaining wall without a permit along the shoreline, after a complaint was filed from a neighboring community. If you ask the building department about this violation, they will tell you they lost the paperwork. Just this summer, Mayor Otis, the Rye Zoning Board and the Building Department allowed a new home to be constructed on Hen Island without enforcing many of the codes, which are in place to protect the environment as well as the community. In this case, a C/O was issued even prior to the house being completed.

Mr. Plunkett, Rye’s attorney, has instructed City officials not to respond to any of my concerns in writing or otherwise from the onset of my complaints. In a previous matter, Mr. Plunkett had instructed Dobbs Ferry village officials to not respond to my concerns. As a result of Mr. Plunkett’s views, the village of Dobbs Ferry paid over $2.5 million dollars in damages. Mr. Plunkett defended and lost the case. Nonetheless, his fees were paid. See The New York Times, December 24, 2006.

Mr. Plunkett is presently trying to convince the Dobbs Ferry Town Board to appeal the case and incur even more legal fees. Mr. Plunkett is also presently defending the City of Rye and the Rye Zoning Board in New York Supreme Court in, Tartaglione v. The Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Rye, Kuder Island Colony, Inc., and Gary Ederer.

I have gone on record that I would be most pleased to dismiss the case if the City of Rye compels the home owner to install a compliant septic system and drill a well for potable water, as would be required anywhere else in Rye or Westchester County.

Why would the City of Rye not want compliance?

Now to Mr. Johnson.

Just because the residents of Hen Island have been polluting and living unsafely for 60+ years doesn’t mean it should be allowed to continue. It is simply a matter of bringing safe and sanitary conditions to the Island. To be clear, I am not asking for “individuals” to comply — I am asking for ALL OF US to comply. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our children, our guests, the other residents of the Island, the people who use Milton Harbor, and the environment.

The New York Times interview Mr. Johnston references was conducted during a time when I was lead to believe by the Board of Directors that the water and sewage systems on Hen Island were compliant. I maintain my view that Hen Island is one of the most beautiful places in Westchester County and feel very fortunate to live along the shores of the Sound in Rye. I am, however, embarrassed by the lack of responsibility by some of my fellow Islanders. Why not have the systems tested in accordance with the request of the Long Island Soundkeeper? I believe your father would be ashamed of the way you are defending polluters.

With regard to your claim about my “untrue rants about Hen Island,” I welcome anyone who would like to witness them first-hand to contact me ray@rjtauto.comand I will be happy to give them a personal tour of the Island. Let them reserve their judgment about the Island and me until they meet me and tour the Island.

This is no longer just a few Hen Island homeowners complaining. There are now thousands who are interested in this matter who are watching it very closely, due to the exposure received from the website at, commercials and news pieces on Channel 12, acknowledgment from others on YouTube (such as The Kid From Brooklyn), and others.

It is my hope that with the coming introduction of Mr. Floatie in and around Westchester and New York City that this will receive national attention.

As to your ad hominem attacks on me, they are false and do not deserve further response. I thank you, Mr. Johnston, for bringing these very serious issues to everyone’s attention, and I, too, shall continue to do so.Ray Tartaglione

July 7, 2008

Catch Basin In The Rye
(view the actual web story by clicking here)

Hen Island is roughly 25 acres of what I used to think of as paradise, straddling the entrances to Mamaroneck and Milton Harbors. I could give you the James Michener schtick of how it came to be, the accretions, ebbs and flows of geological and biological forces right down to the molecular level, forged over the millenia. Nah.

Here’s how it came to be, in my headscape. It all started in 1908 with the great Tunguska cataclysmic blast in Siberia. The earth laid to waste in a second by God knows what. Asteroid? Extraterrestrial warp drive miss an oil change? Still beats the hell out of everyone. An area big enough to be seen from space of old growth forest flattened like charred pickup sticks in an instant.

What most people really don’t know is that in that instant, a 25 acre divot of soilbound rock was hurled into the great blue yonder, surfed the jet stream over North America and petered out somewhere over Lake Erie where its glide path put it smack dab on a course that ended at the intersection of the aforementioned Mamaroneck and Milton harbors.

Only three beings saw its approach that night. A three legged dog named Jake and two drunk Indians. The Indians called it “the big rock that doth fly like a hen”.

Word spread faster than the clap through a cathouse thanks to Jake’s unearthly shrieks and alternating whimpers (he being the cathouse’s housepet). The Indians? They always had alternate ways of communicating, drums, smoke, ESP, and other spook waves faster than light.

The name Hen stuck like fish scales to cork. So the Indians really killed two birds with one big stone. They discovered and named Hen Island.

Years passed and while Mother Nature nurtured the island with flora and fauna, humans were busy nurturing rumors. The more bizarre being that (we are now in the late 70s) Jimmy Hoffa was alive and nursing Amelia Earhart through an intricate network of tubes on the island.

It was back in the late seventies (I think) that I set foot on Hen Island for the first time and for the better part of that summer. I was hired to help a painting contractor spiff up one of the summer cottages, commuting back and forth via skiff.

On my first trip out, the sound of the aluminum skiff grinding against crushed sea shells woke me out of a coffeeless reverie. I gathered up sundry objects of the painter’s trade and crunched up the small beach. My first thought was, this place is cool as shit. Shingled cottages, all angles and blistered paint, facing in every direction of the compass, nestled amongst the trees that grew everywhere. No tennis courts here. Just weathered refuges from a mainland that had mercifully receded from awareness. It wasn’t just another world but other worldly.

On that island the words of that transcendentalist anarchist Thoreau made some sense. During the summer the inhabitants of Hen Island could give a collective big green finger to the rest of us. Or, so I thought.

Paint job finished ,I would always look upon Hen Island with a reverence. Rising right there at the entrance to the harbor and as far away as the moon.

So, maybe two weeks ago, I’m watching the tube as some Westchester EPA suit, in a practiced manner , explains to the camera how the human waste that festers (my word) on Hen Island is naturally filtered by mother nature as it wallows into the ground.

I start googling Hen Island. What I find just adds one more shovel full to the crap heap of illusions that I’ve swallowed in my life. Seems there is trouble in paradise.

Hen Island is owned by a corporation named Kuder Island Colony Inc. made up of 34 shareholders. One of them, Raymond Tartaglione, filed a lawsuit against the corporation in state Supreme Court in White Plains last year. He accuses some of the other owners/shareholders of having failed their ecological obligations to the island and, in his suit, describes “the island as home to a mosquito-infected collection of ramshackle cottages with makeshift sewage and plumbing systems that leak into the Sound.” Mr. Tartaglione, who was once ousted from Kuder’s board, was described by the board president as being “disgruntled”, as in, not in step with the board’s direction.

The cast of characters in these allegations includes the City of Rye government and the Westchester Department of Health for starters, who, it would appear, have, so far, endowed the Kuder Island Colony, Inc. and Hen Island with a coat of teflon. Mr. Tartaglione’s entreaties have been rebuffed or ignored by both Rye and the county and finally by the state Supreme Court when a Court Justice threw out his suit earlier this year. Mr. Tartaglione had planned to appeal the Supreme court decision.

I appeal to the reader to absorb the following web site: heal the harbor where I gleaned all of the information regarding Mr. Tartaglione and Kuder Island Colony Inc. The site even throws in some comic (?) relief in the form of Mr. Floatie (a ripoff from South Park), some dedicated soul wearing a giant turd get up.

One question out of a scatological load is, if in fact Hen Island is bleeding all manner of human waste products into the surrounding water, and since such inanimate waste doesn’t give a crap about city and town boundaries, has Mamaroneck investigated these allegations? By the way, when a crack team of environmental investigators were sent to Hen Island and apparently corroborated much if not all of Mr. Tartaglione’s allegations, they were all removed from the investigation and replaced with a new team, headed up by Deputy Health Commissioner Meyerson from the Westchester Department of Health, whose team found none of the violations reported by the first team. Huh? Is this Lost ?

A Final Vision

A full moon, a baleful blank eye gazes down at Hen Island. Scudding clouds threaten. Then, all pure white light with unimaginable soundclap. A lightnng bolt has hit one of the shit pits on the island. A bolt like one that licked the primordial ooze millions of years ago. There is a stirring like back then, but different. A gathering, a pulling together of heft and mass. Rising, now flattening, drunkenly rolling sideways. Turd become sentient. It glistens under moonlight, spreading, sliding to gravity’s siren call, to the murky water. It slips in with one alien, unwavering thought, permeate and taint.

But this neckless monster has no bolts. There are no angry, fearful villagers with pitchforks silhouetted against torchlight. If there were, and yes, we want them to be there, would they know who, and where, is the monster?


February 2, 2008

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The Journal News
January 30, 2008

RYE – A state Supreme Court justice ruled that the waste-removal system on Hen Island, 26 acres of privately owned land dotted with summer cottages near Rye’s Milton Harbor, is not in violation of the county’s sanitation code, according to court documents released yesterday.

In a suit filed in state Supreme Court in White Plains in August, Raymond Tartaglione, a shareholder of Kuder Colony Inc., accused the 33 other owners of failing to properly dispose of waste.

The lawsuit depicted the island as a place with an archaic waste-removal system that allowed sewage to seep into Long Island Sound. Tartaglione also claimed that trash disposal was inadequate, questioned the safety of using storm-drain water for showering and washing dishes, and criticized the board’s ban on insecticides to combat mosquitoes.

Justice Orazio R. Bellantoni referred to letters from a county environmental health inspector, which stated that examinations of the island determined the septic systems showed no signs of failure.

“The present system is adequate, given the soil on the island, the use of the island for only part of the year, the limited number of islanders actually occupying it and the brevity of their visits,” Bellantoni wrote in his decision. Bellantoni also ruled that because county Health Department inspections concluded West Nile virus did not pose a threat to island residents, owners had a right to refuse insecticide spraying.

White Plains attorney Steven Gaines represents Raymond Tartaglione and said he was “very disappointed” with the decision.

“The decision was based upon documents that we were not provided an opportunity to respond to,” he said, explaining that letters from the environmental health commissioner were submitted to the justice after the evidence deadline at the beginning of August.

He said he plans to appeal the decision.

Benjamin Minard, president of the board of directors of Kuder Island Colony Inc., said the decision was a victory.

“As far as I’m concerned, we took an important step by the Supreme Court of New York agreeing with us,” he said. “I would have preferred not to be in a lawsuit, but we do what is necessary to protect the island and the rights of the shareholders.”

Minard said that Tartaglione’s removal from the board may have triggered the suit and that the suit has damaged Hen Island’s image.

“He’s a disgruntled shareholder. He is an angry man,” Minard said. “I’ve been on the island for 60 years, and we’ve never had a problem. We are good neighbors to the people in Rye and Greenhaven.”


September 21, 2007

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This was published in the Journal News Letters to the Editor section
as a response to the article in the Journal News

Clarifying facts on Hen Island
Regarding June Ederer’s Sept. 9 letter on Hen Island: I am a Hen Island resident for more than 12 years and I have sat as a member on the board of directors.

Mrs. Ederer’s facts are inaccurate and distorted for a number of reasons. Mrs. Ederer’s “some cottages have enviro self-contained systems” only relates to one cottage. That system, along with the remaining 33 other systems, has never been approved by any governmental agency in New York state. One visit to the north end of Hen Island would reveal a sewage system located less than 10 feet from the high tide mark. This system is covered only by large rocks and floods during storm surges and full moon high tides.

There are also many other systems in use with similar problems. Mrs. Ederer’s claim about Hen Islanders being “environmentally sensitive” is another misrepresentation. Just a few years ago they were burying their garbage in the rear of the island’s common areas.

Hen Island’s mission statement for years has been to fly below the radar from any governmental agencies. This is why Hen Island has never been calledto be compliant with local, state or federal building, electrical, plumbing or health codes. I believe that Ray Tartaglione should be commended in his one-man quest to protect the health, safety and environment on and around Hen Island.

Contrary to Mrs. Ederer’s statement, I believe that your reporting of the facts was clear and objective, as it presented both sides of the argument asquoted by your reporter.

Claudio Iodice


New York Times
September 9, 2007

Property Owner Suit Cites Pollution on Hen Island

One of 34 property owners on Hen Island – 26 acres of summer cottages near the Rye shoreline – is accusing the ownership corporation, Kuder Island Colony Inc., of discharging untreated water and sewage into Long Island Sound.

In a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court in White Plains, the property owner says that the island is infested with mosquitoes, has makeshift sewage and plumbing systems that leak into the sound, and uses nonpotable water.

The owner who filed the suit, Raymond Tartaglione, a summer resident of the island, wants the problems addressed, said his lawyer, Steven H. Gaines of White Plains. Mr. Tartaglione is a former president and member of the board of the ownership corporation.

His lawsuit names the current president, Ben R. Minard, and the six board members. In a phone interview last week, Mr. Minard said the allegations in the suit were “unfounded.”

Paul Shew, Rye’s city manager, also questioned the validity of Mr. Tartaglione’s claims. Mr. Shew said no violations were found when Rye’s building inspector, along with county health and environment officials, inspected the island in July.

Terry Backer, the Long Island Soundkeeper, said his organization was assessing the situation on Hen Island and was considering whether to join Mr. Tartaglione’s lawsuit.

“There appears to be pollution going into the Sound,” Mr. Backer said, “and it’s good to see an individual taking on a group because of that.”


This was published in the Journal News Letters to the Editor as a response
to the article in the Journal News

Baseless lawsuit against Hen Island

I have lived on Hen Island for 60 years, and your Sept. 4 article, “Lawsuit: Sewage entering the Sound,” has slanted the facts to such an extent that the location described is unrecognizable.

I have never seen raw sewage or gray water discharged into the Long Island Sound. Some cottages have Enviro self-contained systems, and all other systems are enclosed. To my knowledge, none of the cottages or sanitary systems is located “less than 10 feet from the shoreline,” as claimed in your article by the plaintiff’s attorney. The Rye Building Department has visited the island many times, especially in the past five years after rebuilding required by the 1992 storm, and has enforced the applicable building codes.

Hen Island residents were environmentally sensitive years before “green” became a cause celebre. We treasure Mother Nature and live closely with her, having experienced the fragility of the land and the Sound. Islanders have participated in the Wetlands Citizens Campaign to raise public awareness to save wetlands. Preservation of trees, native plants, and wildlife is a serious obligation for all Hen Islanders as defined in the corporation’s rules and regulations whose by-laws mandate compliance with all government regulations.

The headline is particularly inflammatory and misleading, as plaintiff Raymond Tartaglione has not proven a single instance of raw sewage being released into the Sound. His lawsuit is based on unsubstantiated allegations.

In the interest of accuracy and objectivity, your reporting should be corrected.

June Ederer


The Journal News
September 4, 2007

RYE – A secluded island of quaint summer cottages off the city shoreline is at the center of a lawsuit that accuses its owners of discharging dirty water and sewage into Long Island Sound.

Raymond Tartaglione, one of 34 shareholders who own the 26 acres known as Hen Island, near the entrance to Rye’s Milton Harbor, is accusing some of the other owners of failing to properly monitor human waste disposal, potable drinking water, mosquito control and trash disposal.

In a lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in White Plains, Tartaglione portrays the island as home to a mosquito-infested collection of ramshackle cottages with makeshift sewage and plumbing systems that leak into the Sound.

“I have personally observed untreated sewage from these residences discharge directly into the Long Island Sound, caused by the fact that there is neither a sewerage system nor sanitary septic system on the island,” Tartaglione says in court documents.

He and the other shareholders own Hen Island under a corporation named Kuder Island Colony Inc. They have licensing agreements that allow them to build cottages on designated parcels.

Tartaglione is demanding that the board update its policies to make Hen Island “a safe and nonpolluting community,” said Steven Gaines, the White Plains attorney who represents him.

Benjamin Minard, board president of Kuder Island Colony Inc., described Tartaglione, a Westchester County resident and White Plains business owner, as a disgruntled shareholder who was once ousted from the board. He said Tartaglione had expressed his concerns to other shareholders, but “the board has chosen not to take the direction he wants to go.

“Some of (the) things would be very, very difficult to comply with,” Minard said.

“At this point in time, the basis of the suit is that he would like to tell the board how to run the island,” said Minard, who lives in Syracuse in the winter and spends summers on Hen Island.

Gaines said Minard’s description of Tartaglione as disgruntled was inaccurate and irrelevant to the case. He said that most of the cottages have water and sewage systems that never received government approvals and that one cottage owner still uses an outhouse. Others have concrete cesspools that collect waste less than 10 feet from the shoreline, he said.

“When high tide comes or there is a storm surge, it’s flooded and the sewage goes into the Sound,” Gaines said. Tartaglione has a “totally enclosed system” that does not discharge any contaminants into the ground, his lawyer said.

Gaines also expressed concern about residents collecting water from storm drains for showering and washing dishes and about a ban on mosquito spraying implemented by the board. He said the absence of trash pickup had caused garbage to build up all over the island.

“Were there ever approvals is the real question,” Gaines said. “Were they ever approved by any governmental authority ever? And if they weren’t, it’s absurd for them to be grandfathered in.”

The Rye city code requires homes to comply with all rules that existed at the time they were built, unless they have undergone substantial renovations. Some of the cottages were built in the 1920s and haven’t been updated.

City Manager Paul Shew said the city building inspector had last visited Hen Island in July with county Health Department officials and members of the county environmental police. No health violations were observed, he said.

“It’s private property. We have to get permission to go on-site,” Shew said. “If there’s something that comes to our attention, we’ll look at it.”

Minard said shareholders were required to dispose of sewage “in the most sanitary method available.” He said residents know better than to drink the water from their cottages, and trash is delivered twice a year to Milton Point, where the city picks it up. The board recently implemented a mosquito control program, he said.

But Tartaglione is not the only one concerned about the living conditions of some Hen Island residents. Terry Backer, head of the environmental group Soundkeeper, based in Norwalk, Conn., said his organization had been gathering information about the island and had been planning its own lawsuit. Now it might join Tartaglione’s, he said.

“From all of the information we have gathered on it, they’re doing something that we don’t allow anyone else to do,” Backer said.

Soundkeeper has not taken bacterial samples around the island because it is difficult to pinpoint the source of bacteria, he said.

“Suffice it to say, we have enough information to know that Hen Island sewage has only one place to go, and that’s into Long Island Sound,” he said.


New York Times 
November 14, 2004

Saving The Sound

Long Island Sound is one of America’s great estuaries. Rich in marine and
bird life, ringed by bays and wetlands, it provides jobs, recreation and aesthetic pleasure. It is also under constant stress. Flanked on one side by Long Island, on the other by Westchester and Connecticut, the Sound extends 110 miles through the densest population corridor in America; if it is rich with nature’s bounty, it is also poorer for the contaminants generated by the 20 million people who live within 50 miles of its shores.

Among the worst of these pollutants is nitrogen contained in sewage waste. Nitrogen is useful as a fertilizer on land, but in water it stimulates the growth of bacteria and algae, robbing the Sound of its oxygen — a condition known as hypoxia– and suffocating marine life.

In 1994, with considerable prodding from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the states of New York and Connecticut approved a comprehensive plan to clean up the Sound. The plan has since been amended and fought in the courts, but its basic framework remains intact, as do its goals.

For nitrogen, this means a 58.5 percent reduction over 15 years in the amount of nitrogen entering the Sound from waste treatment plants in about 80 shoreline communities. (The clock actually began ticking in 1999, so only 10 years are left.) New York City is the linchpin of the enterprise, because about half the nitrogen entering the Sound comes from the city’s wastewater treatment plants on the East River.

The Giuliani administration made some improvements, but it left most of the task of upgrading four of the most problematic plants to Michael R. Bloomberg, who agreed as part of a 2002 consent decree to finish the job. The $1.3 billion price tag was a bit rich for the mayor’s blood, so he sent his environmental commissioner, Christopher O. Ward, in search of new technologies.

Earlier this year, the city, with the help of environmental groups like Audubon New York, devised and submitted to Albany a plan which, assuming some wiggle room in the timetable, promises to meet the 58.5 percent target at just over half the original estimated cost.

Albany has been burned by the city before when it comes to the Sound. State environmental officials want to make sure that ‘wiggle room’ does not mean wiggling out of the agreement altogether, especially now that Mr. Ward, an energetic advocate of nitrogen reduction, has left city government for private industry.

But it seems to us that the two sides are well within reach of a sensible compromise that would allow the city to use cutting-edge technology while prohibiting backsliding from the basics of the consent order. Such a compromise would also encourage the communities that account for the other half of the problem to move forward.

According to federal and state officials, Connecticut is right on schedule — Stamford alone is investing $105 million in nitrogen reduction at its wastewater treatment plants — and Long Island is doing an acceptable job.

Westchester, however, lags behind; the state recently fined the county $115,000 for missing the first of several deadlines for cleaning up sewage discharges. Getting the city fully on board would remove any lingering excuses that other communities have for dragging their feet.