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Amityville proposes county license for landscapers to reduce pollution

A course required by Suffolk County teaches landscapers how to apply the products so that they are properly absorbed and there isn't runoff.

Amityville Village Hall at 21 Ireland Place in

Amityville Village Hall at 21 Ireland Place in Amityville in April 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

In an effort to reduce water pollution, Amityville is proposing legislation that would require landscapers to get an additional license from Suffolk County in order to work in the village.

Those seeking a village landscaping license or renewal would have to first obtain a $700 Suffolk County home improvement license. The license costs another $400 every two years to renew. A public hearing will be held on the proposal Monday night.

Amityville landscapers currently pay $150 for a new license and $100 for an annual renewal, as well as $20 per truck or trailer, and applicants must provide proof of insurance. The village is seeking the additional county licensing because, for landscapers, the process includes required training in the use of nitrogen products, said Mayor Dennis Siry.

When not applied properly, nitrogen, found in fertilizer, can leach into the groundwater and run off into the bay, causing pollution. Many landscapers and homeowners don’t know the proper way to apply these products, Siry said.

“I’d like Amityville to become a nitrogen-free community, and we’re going to work on it little by little,” he said.

The course required by the county teaches landscapers how to apply the products so that they are properly absorbed and there isn’t runoff, said Jennifer McGivern, an environmental planner for the county. The course also covers ways to mitigate lawn diseases without using excess nitrogen products. Upon completion of the three-hour, $10 course, landscapers are issued a certificate that is valid indefinitely.

The roughly 50 landscapers licensed by the village were informed several months ago of the proposed new regulation, which would take effect next year, Siry said. Some landscapers hailed the move as positive, saying it will not only help with pollution, but also aid in weeding out “fly by night” companies.

“For us, it’s a competitive advantage because we’re playing by the rules, and a lot of companies out there aren’t playing by the rules,” said Frank Palmeri, owner of Serf & Turf Landscaping, based in St. James, who already has the county license.

Patrick Lapersonerie, owner of Care Landscaping in Amityville, also has the county license. He said that while he applauds Amityville for the change, eliminating overuse of nitrogen products will be difficult.

“Unless it becomes a New York state law, and Home Depot and everybody else isn’t going to sell fertilizer, people are still going to do it,” he said. “This is Long Island, and if someone’s lawn looks better than theirs, they’re going to worry about it.” 

The hearing will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall, 21 Ireland Place.

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