March 1, 2002
Contact: Neal Lewis
Stop Work on Golf Course
Appellate Court Decision Establishes Important
Precedent in Favor of Organic Golf
Stopping Golf Course Construction in Stony Point, NY
A four-judge Appellate
Division (Second Department) panel sitting in Brooklyn, unanimously
reversed a lower court decision and ordered that the Town of Stony
Point must comply with SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review
Act) by completing a full environmental impact statement before
continuing with any work on its proposed ($12 million) municipal
"This is a potentially
historic ruling because it is the first case to reach the appellate
level in New York which directly and specifically rules on issue
of pesticides use on proposed golf courses." Said Neal Lewis,
the L.I. Neighborhood Network executive director and the attorney
who brought the case on behalf of the homeowners in Stony Point
and the local environmental protection group called Stony Point
Action Committee for the Environment (SPACE). The named individuals
in the law suit included three (3) homeowners living immediately
across the street from the site of the proposed golf course who
pump all of their drinking water from shallow (less than 100 feet
deep), private wells that draw from an aquifer that runs under
the golf course site. "We are glad that our drinking water
concerns will finally be taken seriously," said Frank Collyer,
one of the homeowners impacted by the golf course proposal.
A fourth individual Petitioner is a golfer (Robert Stata) who
is concerned about the impact that pesticides used on golf courses
can have on the health of golfers.
The lawsuit is part
of the Organic Golf Project initiated by the L. I. Neighborhood
Network, and the victory builds on a similar lower court victory
in Suffolk County in 1998 (Lewis v. Gaffney). As a result of that
earlier victory, the County of Suffolk is proceeding with plans
to construct two, 18-hole, organic golf courses in Yaphank. It
was because of the important precedent that the Rockland (Stony
Point) case could establish that the Long Island-based environmental
protection group devoted almost two years to this effort. In addition
to Nassau, and Suffolk counties, the decision also applies to
Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Orange, Dutchess, Putnam, Westchester,
and Rockland County where the case originated.
"It is reassuring
to see that New York's environmental laws still mean something,"
said Neal Lewis, attorney for the Petitioners. Mr. Lewis went
on to describe the case in the larger context of increasing efforts
to oppose pesticide use on golf courses because of related environmental
and health concerns. "We believe any new golf course under
consideration, should be designed to utilize the latest techniques
and innovations so that the use of toxic pesticides will be completely
avoided." Said Lewis, who concluded, "we want the golf
industry to get the message that their future lies in Organic
Golf, not Toxic Golf."
The sole environmental
issue raised on appeal was the concern over the plan to use toxic
pesticides at the new golf course. Environmental impacts from
the use of pesticides to maintain the golf course include potential
contamination of drinking water, and harm to wildlife from pesticides
running off to nearby streams and wetlands. The lawsuit did not
oppose construction of the golf course, instead opposition was
limited to the plan to use chemical pesticides at the golf course.
"There was simply no excuse for the Town to short-circuit
the planning process, and refuse to do an environmental impact
study." Said George Potanovic, President of SPACE, who went
on to indicate that environmentalist are not necessarily opposed
to a properly designed golf course. "What we need is a thoughtful,
well-planned, and environmentally sensitive golf course that protects
the Town of Stony Point's natural resources, and the health
of nearby homeowners in addition the public in general."
"Our first goal
is to use legal means to demand that all new golf courses to be
designed and maintained organically," Lewis continued, "the
second goal is to use public pressure and the political process
to urge existing golf courses to convert to organics."
of SPACE that the Town Board has intentionally minimized environmental
impacts to the water, land, wildlife, and wildlife habitat by
cutting short the environmental review process and by providing
incomplete, inaccurate, and inconsistent information to the public
has been affirmed by the appeals court," said SPACE board
member, and Petitioner in the lawsuit, Frank Collyer.
The lower court decision
was issued by Supreme Court Justice Robert R. Meehan, sitting
in (town of New City) Rockland County and it will halt all work
on an 18-hole golf course construction project proposed for a
295-acre site in Stony Point, New York.
in the case are Supervisor Steven Hurley, the Town Board, and
the Town of Stony Point. They were represented by the Stony Point
Town Attorney, Frank J. Phillips.