Memories: 50 Years As A Suffolk Based Journalist

0S9A5165alked into the meeting room of the Suffolk County Legislature last week to receive a proclamation from the legislature honoring me for more than 50 years as a Suffolk-based journalist and spotlighting an archive of my work that has been established.
I was in this room regularly in the mid-1960s covering the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors. Last week I looked at the horseshoe table in front, where the 10 members of the board sat—the supervisors of the 10 towns of Suffolk. It’s been widened since the days of the board to 18 places for the 18 members of the legislature.
I thought of some of the remarkable members of the Board of Supervisors—Evans K. Griffing, supervisor of Shelter Island, Harry Kangeiser from Islip, Bob Flynn from Huntington, and John V. N. Klein, the Smithtown supervisor and the board’s last chairman. The board after two centuries was dissolved due to a lawsuit citing the one-person-one-vote court rulings of the 1960s. A panel of 18 districts of equal population, a Suffolk Legislature, was established in 1970 to replace it.
Mr. Klein, so very committed to this county, gave up being Smithtown supervisor to run to be a legislator on the new panel and he became its first presiding officer. He guided it in its early years, forging a continuum between the board and legislature. Thereafter he became Suffolk County executive with his biggest achievement the first-of-its-kind Suffolk County Farmland Preservation Program which has allowed so much of Suffolk to remain agriculturally productive and green.
On the walls of the meeting room were portraits of the past 18 presiding officers of the legislature. Down the row of photos from Mr. Klein’s was that of John Wehrenberg of Holbrook. My mind went back to 1971 and the tarmac at the Sydney, Nova Scotia airport. A year before, as an investigative reporter then for the daily Long Island Press, I broke the story about the oil industry seeking to drill in the Atlantic. Strong opposition developed on Long Island to drilling off our shores. The following year, Shell Canada invited a delegation of Suffolk legislators to visit the first drilling rig set up in the Atlantic, off Nova Scotia. No press was allowed. But the legislators going listed my name as part of the delegation.
“You don’t think you’re going to get on this helicopter, Mr. Grossman,” a Shell Canada executive told me on the tarmac. Mr. Wehrenberg and the other legislators intervened, he telling the Shell Canada executive: “If Karl isn’t going, we’re not going.” The men from Shell Canada huddled, and soon I was on the chopper out to the rig. The visit was instructive—it was clear on the rig, with its equipment in preparation for a blow-out and spills, that off-shore drilling is a dicey proposition. I recall heading back to Long Island with the legislators, us talking about the impacts on Long Island of oil hitting our beaches.
I looked at the photo of another presiding officer, Lou Howard of Amityville. Now Lou and I were at odds over nuclear power. He was an ardent supporter of the Shoreham nuclear power plant. It was to be the first of 7 to 11 nuclear power plants in Suffolk. Grassroots opposition to Suffolk turning into what nuclear promoters at the time called a “nuclear park” led to election defeats for pro-nuclear officials. But Lou held on and stuck to his pro-nuclear position.
He was a highly affable fellow, however, and an aviation instructor. One day, we were talking about flying and he invited me to go fly with him. Over Long Island, he gave me the wheel and after a while the plane began bucking from turbulence. It was scary. But Lou advised, “Just go with it.” I let the plane be bumped around, and finally the turbulence ended; it was again flying straight and steady. Lou had things wrong about nuclear power, but his philosophy on how to deal with turbulence was right-on.
I was called up to the rostrum with Dennis Fabiszak, director of the East Hampton Library where the archive has been established. Legislators Al Krupski of Cutchogue and Bridget Fleming of Noyac presented me with the proclamation which, incidentally, cited “my extensive reporting and writing on the dangers of nuclear power.” If it wasn’t for the Suffolk Legislature under the leadership of Presiding Officer Gregory Blass of Jamesport in the 1980s, we’d have nuclear plants in Suffolk today.
Mr. Fabiszak, explaining what’s been named the Karl Grossman Research Archive, said: “We are digitizing all of Karl’s articles and also all of the primary research which he used to write the articles. When it is done it will be the largest data base of historic documents in Suffolk County.…Already we have about 7,000 documents online, available and fully searchable. And we’re continuing to add to it every day…We can’t wait to continue the work.”
Please go to the library’s website—http://easthamptonlibrary.org/—to access the information. It’s wonderful that my stories and columns, and an array of documents, are available now and into the future.

SIDE BAR: Veteran Journalist Honored

Journalist and investigative reporter Karl Grossman was honored at the June 20, 2017 General Meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature for his 50 plus year career and to celebrate the establishment of the Karl Grossman Research Archive at the East Hampton Library earlier this year.
The archive will include Mr. Grossman’s extensive body of writing and reporting dating back to 1962 as well as documents related to his backup research.
According to East Hampton Library executive director Dennis Fabiszak, the library is in the process of scanning the thousands of documents that will make up the archive which he estimates is about one fifth complete. The library hopes to obtain grant funding that will enable completion of the project by the end of the year. “The East Hampton Library is very happy to be able to provide digital access to the extensive history of articles and research collected by Karl Grossman over the past half century,” said Mr. Fabiszak. “This digital research archive will be a great resource for both local residents and political leaders.”
In addition to a syndicated weekly column which appears in several Long Island publications including The East Hampton Press, The Shelter Island Reporter and the South Shore Press, Mr. Grossman’s work has appeared in a broad range of diverse publications including Newsday, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Christian Science Monitor, The Baltimore Sun, E The Environmental Magazine, The Village Voice, Long Island Jewish World and the Columbia Journalism Review. He regularly writes for a number of websites including CounterPunch and The Huffington Post.
Mr. Grossman is the author of several books, including Power Crazy about the now defunct Shoreham nuclear power plant. He is the host of Enviro Close-Up which can be viewed nationally on Free Speech TV. Mr. Grossman has been recognized for his significant contributions to journalism and is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the George Polk Award and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. He is a professor of journalism at SUNY Old Westbury where he teaches a class in investigative journalism.
“Karl Grossman is a shining example of journalism at its best,” said Legislator Bridget Fleming. “His insights have shed light on critical issues in our community and the world for decades. I congratulate East Hampton Library for compiling this important collection of Karl’s work, and I’m grateful that he continues to inform and enlighten us with his excellent reporting.”
Legislator Al Krupski agrees, “Karl has had an extraordinary career and his reporting greatly contributed to the betterment of our society. He often covered issues overlooked by others and he certainly raised awareness about the threats to our natural environment by educating and informing his readers. His reporting is just as relevant today as it has been in the past. The Karl Grossman Research Archive is such an important project because it will give future generations of writers and historians key insights to our time.”
Those interested in supporting The Karl Grossman Research Archive can do so by contacting the East Hampton Library.

Filed in: Suffolk Closeup

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