CENTERPORT, N.Y. — Thousands have signed a petition asking officials in one Long Island town do more to protect a pair of nesting bald eagles.
The still-threatened species has been flourishing in Centerport, but as CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports, residents are concerned new development in Huntington decisions may disrupt their nesting habitat.
Majestic bald eagles have been thrilling folks in Centerport since a pair made its nest there in 2017. Debby Thrush has taken thousands of photos .
“It’s really the symbol of America, and they’re coming back and we want to help them stay here and flourish,” she said.
A live camera delights viewers who celebrated a hatched eaglet Thursday, but amid the excitement, there’s concern. Some say two issues before the town of Huntington threaten their territory.
“If you remove their habitat from near the nest and remove their source of food, the eagles are going to abandon their nest and that’s the end of the eagles,” said Robert Schwartz, founder of the Bald Eagles of Centerport Facebook page.
A builder plans two new houses on a wooded hill overlooking the nest.
“The building of these two houses would change their habitat in the wrong direction. We need to lift the eagles up and give them habitat, not take it away,” Schwartz said.
Huntington officials say they’ve taken many steps to protect the eagles.
“In this case, we are just trying to respect the rights of a property owner who wants to build two legal homes on two legal lots, and we are actually going through and ensuring that the DEC reviews the project,” said Anthony Aloisio, the director of planning for the town of Huntington.
Because they may be within a 660-foot regulated zone, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will have to sign off.
An attorney for the builder says if the DEC approves the work, they will abide by all steps to protect the eagles and points out the homes would be remotely located from the nest and separated by a busy roadway.
But bird-lovers say it adds to other stresses on their fragile habitat, including the use of tidal gates at adjacent Mill Pond. They want the town to eliminate them or keep them open.
“We’ve cut off their food. We are ruining the tidal flow,” Schwartz said.
Town officials say they love the bald eagles, too.
“I am a fan favorite of the bald eagles,” said Huntington senior harbor master Fred Uvena.
But tidal gates are needed to maintain healthy and aesthetic water levels and disagree they do harm.
“They’re not pets, they’re wild life,” Uvena said. “There’s plenty of food.”
All agree Centerport is lucky to have resident bald eagles. There’s debate over what’s needed to keep them here.
Town of Huntington officials say they will rule on the application regarding the two new homes on March 31. The DEC will then review the proposal for any impact on the bald eagles.