Cuomo Vetoes Bill That Would Have Outlawed Sand Mining

Long Island Construction Law did not create this content. This content was created by David Winzelberg, and was published to the Long Island Business News on December 16, 2020.

Long Island business and labor groups are praising Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s put the kibosh on a bill that would have essentially outlawed sand mining. Industry leaders say the New York Anti-Sand Mining Bill would have severely restricted mining, halted construction and put union jobs on hold, damaging an already ailing economy and hurting the construction industry.

Instead of authorizing the bill, Cuomo is creating a two-year study to analyze the scientific effects of sand mining.

“By calling for a scientific study to be performed by the professionals within the Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health, Governor Cuomo rightly is removing politics from a decision that has serious effects for real people,” Marc Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors Association, said in a written statement. “Right now, the need for infrastructure improvement is greater than ever, in these times we need a way to streamline the process, not hurt the industry.”

Sand, one of Long Island’s most valuable resources, is big business here. Perfect for making cement, concrete and asphalt, sand mined on Long Island and shipped by barge helped build Manhattan’s skyscrapers, roads, bridges and tunnels, including landmarks like the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center.

Once the most prolific sand mine in the country, the Port Washington pits on the banks of Hempstead Harbor yielded nearly 200 million tons of sand before it dried up in the early 1990s. Eventually sand mining moved east, where land is cheaper and underground sand deposits are plentiful.

Every day, hundreds of trucks roll down the Long Island Expressway carrying thousands of tons of sand to construction sites and asphalt plants in and around New York City.

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And because sand supplies are dwindling, prices have skyrocketed in recent years. Sold for about $10 a cubic foot just a decade ago, Long Island sand now sells for more than double that.

“The governor took another step towards protecting small businesses during these uncertain times,” said James Barker, president of Roanoke Sand & Gravel Corp., one of the few remaining legal sand mining operations on Long Island. “For that, we thank him. To survive today, businesses need the flexibility to work openly, not be stifled.”

Over the years, the growing demand for Long Island sand has prompted several illegal mining operations, which local towns and the state Department of Environmental Conservation have acted to shut down.

Local developers have also used sand sales from project excavations to offset their construction costs.

Gary LaBarbera, president of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council and Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York said Cuomo was right to put working people and union jobs front and center in his decision making.

“Now is not the time to halt construction and put people out of work,” LaBarbera said in the statement. “Long Island will be stronger, safer, and better because of this compromise.”

Matthew Aracich, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, also praised the action.

“Putting power in the hands of towns and villages to control the direction of sand mining based on political pressure versus science can decimate a region,” Aracich told LIBN.

John Caravella, Esq

John Caravella Esq., is a construction attorney and formerly practicing project architect at The Law Office of John Caravella, P.C., representing architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and owners in all phases of contract preparation, litigation, and arbitration across New York and Florida. He also serves as an arbitrator to the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Panel. Mr. Caravella can be reached by email: John@LIConstructionLaw.com or (631) 608-1346.

This is a general information article and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. The content above has been edited for conciseness and additional relevant points are omitted for space constraints. Readers are encouraged to seek counsel from a construction lawyer who has experience with Long Island construction law for advice on a particular circumstance.

Long Island Construction Law did not create this content. This content was created by David Winzelberg, and was published to the Long Island Business News on December 16, 2020.