The founding of a new nonprofit organization, Coalition Against an UnSound Crossing, has ramped up the opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plans to build a tunnel from Oyster Bay to Rye. Led by environmentalists, a Marine, an advertising executive and a retired Newsday reporter, among others, the bipartisan organization’s plans include education and print and television advertising.
The Village of Bayville’s Anti-Tunnel Committee has hosted a series of meetings for different communities over the past few months, offering a PowerPoint presentation that includes information on the ramifications of a tunnel. The coalition’s efforts will overlap with those of the village and the Town of Oyster Bay, which have created a petition against the tunnel.
The UnSound Coalition was organized by Bayvillites John Taylor, a village trustee, and Bill Bleyer, who retired from Newsday. The two have been friends for many years. “We were talking on the beach,” Taylor said, “and came to the conclusion that there needed to be a bigger force behind the efforts that were being made to stop the tunnel than just Bayville.”
He and Bleyer spoke to Heather Johnson at Friends of the Bay, encouraging the nonprofit to join them. Johnson, the organization’s executive director since last October, is a staunch environmentalist.
“It makes sense for the Friends of the Bay to be involved with the coalition,” said Johnson, who became the coalition’s president. “We have heard from people very close to the governor that he is very serious about this.”
But taking the anti-tunnel message to other areas, like the South Shore, Westchester and the rest of New York state, which is the plan, will require money and the hiring of experts.
“We will have consultants, lawyers, the kinds of things the village and town don’t have the resources for,” said Bleyer, the coalition’s vice president. “We will have traffic and environmental consultants, and basically will be going through everything the state issues and pick it apart.”
Aided by funds from a Centre Island resident who declined to be identified, the nonprofit has already hired Peter Janow, an environmentalist and a retired U.S. Marine Corps major, to serve as executive director. It has also retained the services of Zimmerman Edelson, a Great Neck public relations and advertising firm.
The tunnel design calls for an 18-mile long multilevel tube with two lanes on each level. It would stretch for nine miles under the Long Island Sound, and for nine miles underground, on the North Shore and in Westchester County. The entrances and exits would be north of the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway and Jericho Turnpike, and south of the New England Thruway and Playland Parkway. The project, estimated to cost $31.5 billion, would take 12 to 15 years to complete.
The UnSound coalition is looking to involve more non-profit leaders, civic groups, lawyers and organizations island-wide and from Westchester, Bleyer said. The goal, he added, is to have one powerful voice to fight the tunnel.
The current coalition is something of a descendant of the Coalition Against an Unsound Bridge, founded in the late 1960s by Donald and Evelyn Cotten to fight a plan by then Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and Robert Moses to build a bridge from Oyster Bay to Rye. The plan was ultimately foiled by the establishment of a wildlife refuge along the bridge’s proposed path. According to Bleyer, who is also a historian, the Cottens, like the current coalition, concluded that “All the politicians have their own agenda.” Bleyer added, “No one is working to pull this all together. The Cottens pulled it all together, and that’s what we want to do.”
The governor’s December 2017 Long Island Sound Crossing Feasibility Study ignores the wildlife refuge. “The route map they put out shows the tunnel going under Oyster Bay Harbor,” Bleyer said. “They say, ‘Oh yes, there’s a national wildlife refuge, and we aren’t supposed to build anything over, under or through it, but we’ll figure out a way.’”
Additionally, the feasibility study states that at least two ventilation towers would be needed for the tunnel, which could be constructed on the Long Island shoreline. “That probably means four or six,” said Janow. “The fans, which will need to run 24/7, mean it will have its own power plant.”
The coalition has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday, June 27, at 12:30 p.m. in Syosset-Woodbury Community Park, at 7800 Jericho Turnpike. The public is invited to attend to learn how to become involved in stopping the tunnel. To learn more about the coalition or to donate, go to www.unsoundcrossing.org.