Letters from LINLA President Jay Ratto

4/24/2020 - Letter to Governor Cuomo

Dear Governor Cuomo,

RE: Horticulture is a safe way to support mental well being

On behalf of the Long Island Nursery and Landscape Association, I am writing to express our ongoing concern that certain horticulture practices are currently not permitted. In the month since NYS on Pause went into full effect, the Horticulture, Landscape and Green Industries have been largely closed. Like many other industries, we understand the need for this level of restriction and it is very gratifying that these measures have had the desired result of flattening the curve. But unlike many of these other industries, we work almost exclusively outdoors. As such, we cannot work from home. And unlike many other industries, we are well versed in PPE. We feel that this makes the services and products that we provide to the public a low risk for spreading the virus.

For our nursery growers and the retail garden centers a major concern is the loss of crops. While our colleagues in food producing agriculture are rightfully designated as essential, the majority of their crops will not be ready for market until late spring / early summer. Our prime season is now. If they are not brought to market, much of it will be lost. In addition to the loss of local sales, the nursery growers on Long Island have clients throughout the country and most densely within the Regional Coalition of states. The financial loss of these “out of state” sales will be ruinous this year but may never be recovered in future years as these customers are forced to find new sources outside of New York. And also consider that retail garden centers are watching their local homeowner clients flock to Big Box stores and we all watch the revenue go out of New York.

As the Pause continues and the spring season progresses, our communities are relying on outdoor spaces for solace and mental well-being. Landscaping and the supporting green industries are vital to safety and enjoyment of this restorative endeavor.

The Long Island Nursery and Landscape Association embraces your efforts to stop the rapid transmission of COVID-19 and we want to support those efforts while continuing to perform these 'essential' functions that contribute to the well-being of our communities. In concert with your regional strategy, we urge you to consider the actions of other states in the coalition concerning Landscaping services and Nursery growers in your definition of Essential Services and the easing of restrictions put in place by NYS on Pause.

We are asking the governor’s office to consider this group of industries a low risk for spreading the virus and industries and that we can further mitigate that risk with properly applied Safety Best Management Practices.

Attached you find the joint letter from four prominent industry associations to their members in Nassau and Suffolk counties., illustrating our commitment to safety and compliance . In addition please find the most recent version of the Covid-19 Safety BMPs that we strongly encourage throughout these industries.

Sincerely,

John Ratto, CNLP, President, Long Island Nursery and Landscape Association

4/10/2020 - Open Letter to Landscape Industry

As the Associations that represent the Green Industries of Horticulture, Arboriculture, and Landscaping, it is our mission to represent and advocate for you. During this crisis, we have spent countless hours trying to navigate the new structure in Albany which has the job of keeping all New Yorkers safe. Through many phone calls, emails and letters to these officials, we have gained ground in some areas. Though not as much and we hoped, work continues. We do this as volunteers, and we do this for YOU.

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Safety is the priority - The Covid-19 crisis has sent shock waves through our communities and our industry. Nassau and Suffolk counties have been particularly hard hit with many in our area lost to this virus and many, many more infected. It is a terrifying time. A crisis that our generation has never seen.

With a situation as dire and widespread as this one, safety is the responsibility of each and every one of us. We all have the potential of unintentionally spreading this virus and prolonging this crisis. This knowledge should guide your actions both personally and professionally.

 

Painful and difficult - In addition to worrying about the health of our families and staff we are now faced with the loss of revenue as the all important spring season arrives. We understand that it feels like they want to put us out of business. Our leaders, at every level, are using all the resources and authority at their disposal to protect the citizens. A big part of this protection involves social distancing and reducing contact. In New York, this includes Work Force Reduction measures that were put in place to slow the spread of the Covid-19 and save lives. Whole industries are shutdown. As painful and financially damaging as this is to the Green Industry, it is not unique to us. We have not been singled out.

Your responsibility - If your company provides services deemed Essential by NYS and you CHOOSE to continue to provide services; you must Implement and Enforce a Strict Safety Protocol for all your employees. Everyone including yourself is a potential threat to each other, to clients and the public. If you ignore this you may be subject to substantial fines.

If your company provides services deemed Essential by NYS and you CHOOSE to continue to provide services; remember your essential status applies to only those services. Do not be tempted to perform other work, you will not be exempt and are subject to substantial fines. 

All eyes are on you! The neighborhoods are filled with people working from home, laid off from their jobs or whose own businesses are closed. They see you working and they are being told to Call 311 and report companies that are violating the WorkForce Reduction regulations.

Our actions as an industry now will set the stage for how we will be treated by the public and lawmakers in the future - All of us, whether working or not, need to be Professionals and act Responsibly. This crisis will end and the regulations will be rolled back. Remember that the ones who decide how that progresses will be looking at how these industries conducted themselves. Do you want the Green Industries to be perceived as “Chuck in a truck out to make a buck” or as a group of trained professionals who care about the health and safety of their communities?

Perspective - True, this crisis is incredibly serious and like nothing we have encountered before. But there have been other crises; 911 Attacks, the Housing Market Crash, Super Storm Sandy. We suffered, we persevered and we recovered. Our industry is as strong as the determination of our members. Don’t let your fear and desperation get the best you!

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As Professional Associations, we will stand by our members throughout this crisis, we will stand by our members during the recovery and beyond. We are stronger and our voice is louder when we act together. So support your associations, volunteer for a committee or join a board. And if you don’t belong to an Association, what are waiting for?

To your continued success,

Nassau Suffolk Landscape Grounds Association

Long Island Arboricultural Association

Long Island Flower Growers Association

Long Island Nursery and Landscape Association 

4/4/2020 - Letter to Members

Dear LINLA Members and Industry Professionals,

We are living in unprecedented times. One that our generation and our leaders have never encountered. It is stressful for all of us, but we need to remember that Health and Safety is the MOST important thing! As we and our officials struggle to find the path through this challenge we all have to work together for the greater good.

As the current president of LINLA, I have been working with the Board of Directors on our primary goal; advocating for our members and keeping you up to date during the Covid-19 crisis. We have been working tirelessly to provide accurate information and documentation from NYDAM, ESD, DEC, Suffolk and Nassau Counties. Everything we can verify as accurate is posted to LINLA.org, sent via email and posted to Facebook.

At the time I write this our industry is largely closed down. These are the three areas where work is permitted:

    • Nurseries / Greenhouses selling food-producing plants.
    • Landscaping for maintenance and pest control purposes only.
    • Pesticide applications as defined by the DEC.

For those of you that belong to these three groups and choose to continue to provide services, please consider implementing policies and procedures that put safety first.

LINLA is providing suggested Safety Best Management Practices that might help keep you, your staff and your clients stay safe. This is a compilation of BMPs from *reputable sources around the industry. As every company is different, some will not apply to your business. Take what applies and what you can use to make your own plan. Then consult with your Human Resource professional and Legal guide to see if it is appropriate for you to implement them.

It would be irresponsible to think we can proceed with “business as usual”. As the situation worsens daily, we find ourselves in uncharted territory. As a professional industry, we should lead by example.

During this time the LINLA Board of volunteers will continue working with our officials, both locally and in Albany to come up with strategies that protect the public and keep everyone as safe as possible. This includes providing resources to help you meet safety protocols, working to assist you during this crisis and the reconstruction of our industry after the crisis is over.

There will be sacrifices, there will be financial hardship, but you will survive and the industry will survive.

To your continued success, Jay Ratto, CNLP
 

3/21/2020 - First Letter to Governor Cuomo

Dear Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo,

The Long Island Nursery & Landscape Association has been raising the standard of professionalism in the green industry since 1931. While originally a group of nursery growers, the association expanded over the years to include member companies specialize in landscape installation, landscape maintenance, tree care, irrigation, and water management. These professionals work daily servicing homes and businesses to enhance and maintain healthy green spaces and ultimately sustain our environment.

As New York State struggles to combat the rapid transmission of the coronavirus “COVID-19,” we understand and acknowledge that in some instances, drastic steps have to be taken. We are communicating with you today to assure you that landscape services are essential services and must continue during these critical times. Landscapers are partners in assisting in the protection of public health and safety. Without the landscape industry conducting these valuable services, we will undoubtedly see increased instances where people may be harmed or become sick from other illnesses compounding our already stretched medical resources.

We encourage you to consider the services our industry provides as 'essential' for the following reasons;

Landscape Maintenance professional are protectors of public health performing essential treatments to lawns and green spaces to reduce the transmission of dangerous and deadly diseases through pests like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas.

Landscapers Contractors protect property and maintain green spaces that could otherwise jeopardize public safety. Unkept fields and green spaces increase the chance of injuries and increase crime rates.

Professional Arborists avoid damage property as tree removal and tree health are critical to the security of homes and families. Landscape Construction Contractors play a critical role in stormwater management through drainage systems within public and private properties.

All sectors of the Landscaper Industry play a critical role in boosting morale and mental health during this difficult time for our state. Without landscape services fields, parks, businesses, and homes will become overgrown and unkept, which can have dramatic psychological effects on the mental and wellbeing of our communities.

The Long Island Nursery and Landscape Association embraces your efforts to stop the rapid transmission of COVID-19 and we want to support those efforts while continuing to perform these 'essential' functions that are necessary within our communities throughout the state. In the spirit of creating a regional strategy, we urge you to consider the actions of NJ and PA concerning Landscaping services and Nursery growers in your definition of Essential Services.

Sincerely,
John Ratto, CNLP,
President, Long Island Nursery and Landscape Association