The deadline for approving the state budget is the end of March. That’s also the deadline Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo effectively imposed for a solution to the ongoing war over building a solar farm in Mastic. But with that clock still ticking, a proposed deal is unraveling. And that’s a shame.
In December, Cuomo vetoed legislation that would have preserved more than 1,200 acres of pine barrens in Shoreham and Mastic. There was little controversy about protecting 800-plus acres of pristine forest in Shoreham. The problem was the Mastic parcel and the difficulty of finding land to swap so the solar array could be placed elsewhere. But in Cuomo’s veto, he expressed optimism regarding a solution and told staff to work with all parties to find an alternate site. By saying he wanted a plan in the 2018-19 budget, Cuomo gave it a March 31 deadline.
Unfortunately, in the past two weeks property owner Gerald Rosengarten has cleared at least 20 acres for his 60-acre solar project. He has the zoning and approvals to do that. There will be time for recriminations later; what’s important now is that everyone involved keep working toward a deal that preserves the rest of the land and locates the rest of the solar farm somewhere that doesn’t involve deforestation. All parties must live up to their promises to conduct negotiations in good faith.
New surveys show hundreds or more acres of previously disturbed land in Suffolk County suitable for solar arrays. Cuomo must get more involved in talks between Brookhaven Town and Rosengarten to pull off the compromise the governor said was possible when he vetoed the bill to protect the land.
Make it happen. You’ve got 19 days.