Monthly Archives: March 2015

Senior attack Zach Harned races around Riverhead players as he tries to get an open look at the net to score a goal, in Middle Country’s 12-4 loss to the Blue Waves Monday. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After starting off last season with a 10-0 losing streak, the Middle Country boys’ lacrosse team has already turned its game around this year, despite having it’s 2-0 record snapped by Riverhead at home, 12-4, on Monday.

The Mad Dogs first edged out Commack, 10-9, on March 25, and followed it up with a 10-2 victory at Patchogue-Medford on March 27, to remain undefeated at 2-0 in League I.

In Monday’s nonleague game against Riverhead, which stands 1-2, 0-1 in League II, the boys started off strong to begin the first and second half, but its efforts weren’t enough once the Blue Waves started rolling.

With 6:35 remaining in the first quarter, senior attacks Zach Harned and Bobby Emerson connected on a play where Harned passed the ball across the net to Emerson, who placed it in the right goal side for the 1-0 lead.

Junior attack Cole Demaille maintains possession as he races up the field with a Riverhead player reaching to force a turnover. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Junior attack Cole Demaille maintains possession as he races up the field with a Riverhead player reaching to force a turnover. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Two minutes later, Riverhead evened the scored, but Emerson scored again with 8:22 remaining in the second stanza when he scooped the ball up off an offensive rebound and rocketed it straight up the middle for a 2-1 advantage.

Riverhead scored three unanswered goals to end the second and take a 5-2 lead into halftime, and the Mad Dogs were disappointed.

“That wasn’t our usual game plan that we have,” senior defender Mike Durkin said. “We usually communicate more on defense and we were just off today.”

Middle Country turned it around after halftime, and 30 seconds into the quarter, senior midfielder Brandon Thomas fed the ball to Emerson, who scored.

Just over a minute later, Thomas crossed into Riverhead’s zone and whipped the ball into the cage from about 20 yards out, to pull the Mad Dogs within one point, 5-4.

“I thought we came out strong,” Thomas said. “Coming out in the second half I thought we gave it a good push, we just finished off a little slow. We’ve got to stick together.”

Middle Country continued to move the ball around and was strong on the clears, but ran into trouble at the faceoff and couldn’t capitalize on some of its opportunities.

Riverhead scored three unanswered goals to end the third, and scored four more in the fourth. Junior goalkeeper Christian Brody made six saves for the Mad Dogs, and backup J.D. Kane finished with three.

Senior midfielder Brandon Thomas added a goal and an assist in Middle Country’s 12-4 loss to Riverhead Monday. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Senior midfielder Brandon Thomas added a goal and an assist in Middle Country’s 12-4 loss to Riverhead Monday. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Thomas said the team needs to slow down its plays on offense, while Durkin believes the rotation, sliding and communication needs to be stronger on defense if the Mad Dogs want to go far this season. The boys believe they can improve on last season’s 2-14 overall and 2-12 league records though, and see playoffs as a possibility in the future.

“We’ve been coming together,” Durkin said. “We’ve been playing together since we were 5 years old so we all know each other and we know where each other is going to be [on the field].”

Thomas added: “We’re a good, close-knit group. The goal is to make the playoffs, and that’s what we’re looking to do this year.”

The smokestacks of the Port Jefferson power plant loom over the village and the local harbor. File photo by Erika Karp

The Long Island Power Authority must study the area’s aging power plants with an eye toward upgrading the facilities, according to a provision of the next New York State budget.

Language that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and state legislators have agreed upon requires the utility to “perform an engineering, environmental … and cost feasibility analysis and study” of upgrading — also known as repowering — the plants in Port Jefferson, Northport and Island Park. The focus will be on using more efficient and environmentally friendly technology at the plants.

Those three sites have been on shaky ground because they are old and using outdated technology. The Port Jefferson and Northport host communities have feared losing essential property taxes from the plants, which would happen if the plants were to reach the ends of their useful lives without being repowered.

“We are extremely proud that our representatives and our lobbying efforts are working toward a repowered plant in [Port Jefferson],” village Mayor Margot Garant said in an email. “We always believed this was the best repurposing of our site, and in the best interest of the ratepayers of [Long Island].”

The utility must begin studying Port Jefferson and Island Park no later than Oct. 1, and must start working on the second study in Northport by October 2018, according to the budget language. The studies must be completed and presented to the LIPA board of trustees and the department of public service no longer than 18 months after they begin.

LIPA will repower the plants if it determines, based on the studies, “that repowering any such generating facility is in the best interests of its ratepayers and will enhance the authority’s ability to provide a more efficient, reliable and economical supply of electric energy in its service territory, consistent with the goal of improving environmental quality.”

Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) said the studies “could change the whole tax certiorari issue.”

Huntington Town and the Northport-East Northport school district have been battling LIPA over the value of that property, with the utility arguing the plant is grossly overassessed and filing to be reimbursed for taxes overpaid as a result. Town Supervisor Frank Petrone has extended an offer to LIPA to freeze its tax assessment if it repowers Northport.

“Northport and East Northport are looking down the barrel of a gun,” Raia said Tuesday, “and if they repowered Northport that whole case would go away.”

Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said in a statement that the study requirement will be included in the state budget “since LIPA did not follow through on their [previous] promises” to complete economic feasibility studies on the aging plants.

PSEG Long Island, the private utility that has taken over management of LIPA, was on board with the repowering studies this week.

“After careful study last year, we determined that there was no need for additional generation on Long Island until, at least, 2024,” PSEG Long Island spokesman Jeff Weir said in an email. “We wholeheartedly embrace this process because all we want is to implement the lowest cost and most reliable solutions for our customers on Long Island and in the Rockaways.”

Rohma Abbas contributed reporting.

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Assistant Superintendent for Business Susan Casali explained the district’s budget proposal last week. Photo by Barbara Donlon

Comsewogue School District hopes to adopt a budget that increases staff while staying within the state-imposed limit on its tax increase.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Susan Casali explained during a school board workshop on March 26 that the budget proposal would also reduce the district’s dependency on its reserves and make security improvements.

The budget was originally proposed at that workshop to be $85.6 million, or a 2.7 percent increase over the current year’s budget, funded in part through an expected increase in state aid.

But after preliminary state aid numbers were released on Tuesday, showing Comsewogue receiving less than the $2 million bump it expected, the district is changing its budget proposal — Casali said in an email that the plan is to slash the budget by $400,000.

“Our overall goal is to stay under the property tax cap,” Casali said last week, referring to New York State’s cap on how much municipalities and school districts can increase their tax levy each year.

Comsewogue may raise its by 2.2 percent next year, and the budget proposal meets that cap.

Under the budget plan, the district would add a librarian, so that each school in the district would have one, and Comsewogue would replace its deans, who also have teaching responsibilities, with assistant principals to create more flexibility.

At John F. Kennedy Middle School, where there is already one assistant principal, the plan is to replace the part-time dean with a full-time assistant principal. At Comsewogue High School, the dean will become two assistant principals.

The district is also hoping to add assistant athletic coaches into the mix, for student safety and to help develop a stronger athletic program. In the past, those roles were cut for financial reasons.

Other improvements are proposed for the district’s facilities — according to Casali, Comsewogue’s wireless infrastructure hasn’t been updated in more than 10 years, and some classrooms need to be refurbished. Officials also hope to add cameras and other upgrades to the security system, based on recommendations from a security study that was completed last year.

While the budget has not been finalized, Superintendent Joe Rella said, “Whatever budget is put up [for a public vote] in May will be under the tax cap.”

Also on the ballot will be a proposition on transportation, to add bus service for 38 JFK Middle School students who currently walk to school. The students live within a half-mile of the building, which keeps them off the buses, but the heavy snow covering sidewalks this winter led the kids to walk in the street and spurred the transportation proposal.

The extra bus riders will not add cost to the taxpayer, as the district would reconfigure current bus routes to accommodate the kids.

The school board will adopt a budget at its meeting on April 13.

A budget and trustee election will take place at the Northport-East Northport library district on Tuesday, April 14. File photo

Come April 14, residents of the Northport-East Northport library district will be asked to vote on a nearly $10 million budget to fund library operations in 2015-16.

If approved, the spending plan would translate to an approximately $6.80 increase in taxes for an average library district resident with a home assessed at $4,000.

The proposed budget stays within the district’s state-mandated cap on property tax levy increases.

The Tuesday vote will also give residents the chance to elect two trustees from a pool of three candidates to serve on the board. Candidates include current trustees Robert Little and Georgeanne White, and Northport resident Jacqueline Elsas. All are vying for a five-year term on the board, according to James Olney, the library director.

Next year’s budget proposes increasing funding for adult, teen and children programming by $6,500 due to an increase in program attendance, Olney said on Monday. Program attendance has been up by about 16.7 percent in the last two years, Olney said, and so the additional funds in that line would go towards creating new programming
“We have had such an exciting turnout,” Olney said. “We would like to encourage that trend.”

The proposed budget also includes funding for $140,000 in capital and technological improvements, up from this year’s $50,000 in expenses. It’s also increasing its funding for facilities repairs and improvements, which Olney said was largely due to paying for capital upgrades at the two libraries, which have been aging for about two decades.

Improvements included replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Northport Public Library and improving restrooms and carpeting at various locations in East Northport. Other repairs included replacing new furniture that’s broken over the years and refinishing some tables and countertops “so we can get many more years out of them.”

Professional fees are also up in next year’s budget due to the district having to perform an actuarial study. Retirement and deferred compensations costs are down and total revenues are projected to slide slightly, according to the library’s own budget breakdown.

The district is projecting to increase its tax levy from approximately $9.5 million to $9.6 million, or about a 1.46 percent increase. That stays within the district’s 1.98-percent levy cap, Olney said.

Voting will take place at both the Northport and East Northport libraries. Those who live south of Route 25A would vote at the East Northport Public Library at 185 Larkfield Rd. Those who live north of Route 25A would vote at the Northport Public Library at 151 Laurel Ave.

The Greenway Trail runs between Port Jefferson Station and Setauket. File photo

Days after human skeletal remains were discovered near the Greenway Trail, a Suffolk County police officer assured local residents that he would be patrolling the hiking and biking path in the warmer weather.

Officer William Gibaldi said at the March 25 meeting of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association that he had just driven the trail, which runs between Setauket and Port Jefferson Station, the day before in a police car with another officer.

“When it warms up a little, we’re going to be riding our bikes through there, at least two or three times a week,” he said. “We’re gonna be in there.”

On March 22, around 4 p.m., skeletal remains were spotted close to the 3.5-mile trail at its stretch off of Gnarled Hollow Road. Police are investigating the human remains, and officials have not yet released the sex of the deceased or the person’s cause of death.

It was also unclear when the person died and how long the body had been in the place it was found.

The Greenway Trail, which opened in 2009 and originally ran from Gnarled Hollow Road to Sheep Pasture Road, was recently extended by two miles — one mile on each end — to bring it all the way to Limroy Lane in Setauket and close to Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. While construction was largely completed in late 2013, the community officially opened the trail with a ceremony in early 2014.

“The inspector of the precinct, he wants us on that trail all the time anyway, so we’re gonna be on that trail a lot,” Gibaldi said. “You’ll see us in there, hanging out, riding around or … driving a car.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone file photo

By Julianne Cuba

At his fourth State of the County address, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone began by ensuring the county government and public that he has never been more optimistic about the current state of the region and its future.

At the William H. Rogers Legislative Building in Hauppauge on March 26, Bellone (D) also took time commending the county legislature for successfully and efficiently reducing government by more than 10 percent — an initiative that will save Suffolk County taxpayers more than $100 million a year. The county executive announced that when he took office three years ago, the unemployment rate for Suffolk County stood at 8.2 percent. As of the end of 2014, it stands at 4.2 percent.

However, Bellone continued, “I’m not here to talk about where we are today. I am much more interested in talking about where we are going and what the future could look like.”

In order to combat what Bellone said he considers the fundamental issue of our time — a two-decade trend of losing young, qualified and educated people to other regions of the county — he pointed to the county’s economic development plan, Connect Long Island.

“We cannot reach our economic potential, we cannot build a more prosperous future, if we are not a region that can attract and retain the young, high-knowledge, high-skill workers necessary to build an innovative economy,” he said.

Connect Long Island will make progress on the five crucial issues that are driving young people away, which, according to Bellone include high costs, lack of transportation options, lack of quality affordable rental housing, lack of affordable housing in desired environments and a lack of high-paying jobs.

“We build walkable, transit-oriented downtowns that have strong, public transportation links to one another and to universities, research centers, job centers and parks and open space. Effectively, what Connect LI will do is to build a quality of life ecosystem that will be attractive to young people,” he said.

But, unfortunately, Bellone said, the lack of sewage systems in many of Suffolk County’s downtown areas — which are critical parts of the region’s future — is limiting the opportunity for growth.

Suffolk County’s sewage problem impacts not only the regions economic development but its water quality as well. The water quality issue was one of the three major problems on which Bellone focused.

“We have 360,000 unsewered homes in Suffolk County — that is more than the entire state of New Jersey. Those 360,000 homes represent, potentially, 360,000 customers. So I’m happy to report that four companies donated 19 systems, which we are putting into the ground to test under local conditions. At the same time, with the leadership of Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Dr. Samuel Stanley, [Stony Brook University] will begin a new program to identify the next generation of septic technology, with the goal of providing better, more cost-efficient options for Suffolk County residents,” Bellone said.

Bellone announced that with the help of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), the county’s state and federal partners, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), he was able to secure $383 million for one of the largest investments in clean water infrastructure in more than 40 years — the Reclaim Our Water Initiative.

Legislator and Minority Leader Kevin McCaffrey (R) said that he agrees 100 percent with everything the county executive said in regard to economic development and improving drinking water. However, he added that the county’s debt must be cut and the legislature needs increased oversight.

“We must ask ourselves if we are going to control the irresponsible and reckless spending and borrowing, we must become more focused on the county’s ever-increasing debt,” McCaffrey said.  “We must ask ourselves if we want to throw debt on the backs of our children and our grandchildren. It’s time to cut up the credit cards and learn how to live within our means.”

 

Many Suffolk County residents oppose a proposed gambling facility in the Town of Brookhaven. File photo

Local civic members are going all-in to fight a proposed gambling facility in Brookhaven Town.

After New York voters passed a referendum in 2013 that allowed for seven casinos in the state, the Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation proposed putting a 1,000-machine casino at the former Brookhaven Multiplex Cinemas in Medford. But town residents, particularly those living in the Medford area, have railed against the project, citing concerns about it causing traffic congestion and promoting crime, drug use and prostitution.

The proposal, for a nearly 32-acre site off of the Long Island Expressway near Exit 64, is awaiting approval from the Suffolk County Planning Commission.

Delaware North, the company that runs the Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack and Hamburg Gaming in upstate New York, would operate the Medford facility.

The local residents who oppose the 1,000 lottery machines, known as video lottery terminals, have found allies in the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. At the group’s March 25 meeting, the members voted to take an official stand against the gambling facility, upon a suggestion from executive board member Frank Gibbons.

The Terryville resident said residents must push their elected officials to derail the casino.

“If all of us get united across this entire township and say, ‘You do this and we’re going to vote you all out of office,’ I bet they’ll find a way.”

Town officials have said that their hands are tied, and they have no role in choosing where the gambling facility will be built. The town board has hired global law firm Nixon Peabody LLP to issue its own legal opinion on the matter.
The town board also approved an anti-casino statement in late January, introduced by Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point).

“These are blights in a community and serve no purpose in the suburbs,” Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said at the time.

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville civic members voted against a gambling facility being built at the proposed site in Medford or anywhere else in Brookhaven Town.

“Because if it’s not Medford, it could be Bicycle Path,” President Ed Garboski said. “It could be Centereach.”

Jeff Napoleon, a Port Jefferson Station resident, said members should authorize the executive board to “to make our feelings known that we’re against this and to take whatever steps … in any way they deem appropriate. That way as they uncover things, they can take action.”

The civic supported that measure, adding it to their vote of opposition to the gambling facility.

“This is obviously a complicated issue,” Napoleon said. “A lot of angles to it.”

Joe Rella is planning to continue as Comsewogue’s superintendent for the immediate future, though he says he’s retiring in 2019. Photo by Barbara Donlon

Comsewogue officials have sealed their lips on a proposal not to give state exams to students next month.

Both Facebook and the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association website were buzzing this week, as school board members and residents discussed a proposed resolution saying the board would “seriously consider not administering the New York State standardized [English language arts] and math exams in grades 3-8, and the science exam in grades 4 and 8.” The board of education had encouraged parents to attend its workshop on Thursday night and speak about the state’s testing system.

But just hours before the meeting, the district went silent, and Superintendent Joe Rella and board members said legal counsel had advised them not to discuss the issue.

It is unclear whether the board will bring the resolution to a vote at its next business meeting, on Monday.

According to the resolution, the board takes issue with the state’s current education aid levels and teacher evaluation policies, and with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed education reforms, one of which would base half of a teacher’s evaluation on student test scores.

The resolution says that the Comsewogue school board would consider not administering the state tests unless Cuomo (D) and state legislators “establish a fair and equitable state aid funding formula … so [schools] can provide for the educational needs of every child” and stop weighing student test scores so heavily in teacher and administrator evaluations.

At the workshop Thursday, a community member said the announcement before the meeting that officials would no longer discuss the matter had surprised her.

“I really can’t tell you why right now,” Rella responded. “We’ve been advised not to comment about it.”

According to state education department spokeswoman Jeanne Beattie, the federal government requires the standardized tests.

“If a member of a board of education or school superintendent takes official action by refusing to administer a required state assessment, the responsible party would be at risk of removal from office by the commissioner of education pursuant to Education Law,” Beattie said in an email.

According to Article 7 of the state Education Law, the commissioner may, following a hearing, remove a school officer, including a school board member or a district administrator, if it has been “proved to his satisfaction” that the person willfully disobeyed “any decision, order, rule or regulation of the regents or of the commissioner of education.” The commissioner may also withhold state aid from any district for such actions.

Council head mulls creating new lecture series

Marc Courtade photo from Huntington Arts Council

Marc Courtade, the new executive director of the Huntington Arts Council, is rolling up his sleeves and getting ready to work.

Courtade follows Diana Cherryholmes as the new leader of the arts organization and officially stepped in to fill her position on March 2. Cherryholmes, who was at the helm of the Huntington Arts Council for more than 16 years, left to work for Suffolk County.

Before joining the Huntington Arts Council, Courtade was the business manager for Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post for the past 17 years.

“I am delighted to bring my skills, passion and energy to the Huntington Arts Council, and look forward to helping the arts remain a vibrant part of our community,” he said in a statement.

While at Tilles, Courtade was an integral part of the center’s performance season, where he assisted in planning and organizing many of the performances and special events. At Tilles, he also created the pre-performance series, “Performance PLUS!” while simultaneously producing and acting as artistic director for 10 years. Courtade continues to teach musical theater and opera courses for the honors program at LIU and The Hutton House Lectures at Lorber Hall.

“At the moment, I just want to help to continue the good work and move the organization forward … I’m still transitioning and working on a 50th anniversary reception,” he said in a phone interview. “This is the 50th anniversary of the concerts at Heckscher Park, so we’re currently working on finalizing that programming.”

Courtade said that the planning for the 50th anniversary of the concerts in the park is all still in the works, but he is looking to hold a small reception before the anniversary concert on June 27.

Courtade said that over the years he has given many lectures and would like to continue that while at HAC.

“I would love to begin a lecture series here, presentations about the arts,” he said. “Different art genres. I would like to tailor it across a wide variety of art genres. I would give some and I would like to have speakers from the outside as well on arts-related topics.”

While Courtade’s personal focus is in the performing arts, the Huntington Arts Council offers a wide variety of arts, including both performing and visual.

Courtade said that on April 10, HAC will be holding its opening reception of a self-portrait visual arts show entitled, “I see me!” It will be a juried show and the winners will be announced very soon, he said.

In addition to his involvement at Tilles and now at HAC, Courtade has been a speaker for the New York Council for the Humanities since 2007. He is a frequent speaker all over Long Island and the New York-area.

Before Tilles, Courtade worked in development for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and New York City Opera.

Irina DeSimone works her way around a Sayville opponent last season. File photo by Kevin Freiheit

Expectations are running high for a strong season, and for good reason — the Huntington High School girls’ lacrosse team returns many talented players to the field this spring.

Coached by Kathy Wright and Molly Burnett, the Blue Devils were relegated to the gym for the first week of practice since snow covered their outdoor field. Players made the best of the situation, but the squad is looking forward to warmer temperatures.

Huntington compiled a 15-3 overall mark last spring, with a 12-2 record in Division II, reaching the Suffolk Class B Final Four before losing in overtime at home to Sayville, 14-13.

Caitlin Knowles races to scoop up a ground ball. File photo by Kevin Freiheit
Caitlin Knowles races to scoop up a ground ball. File photo by Kevin Freiheit

Junior midfielder Emma DeGennaro, senior midfielder Samantha Lynch, junior midfielder Katie Reilly and senior goalkeeper Anna Tesoriero were named All-County.

Senior attack Alyssa Amorison, junior midfielder Irina DeSimone, senior defender Caitlin Knowles and sophomore defender Camille Stafford won All-Division honors. Senior defender Cassidie Gianmarino and junior defender Brianna McDonald were recognized as All-Tournament. Junior defender Hailey Bengston was Huntington’s Unsung Hero Award recipient. Lynch, Knowles and Tesoriero also garnered Academic All-American honors.

All of last season’s postseason honorees are back on the field this spring.

“I think the team is already looking really good,” said Reilly, who had 49 goals and 85 assists last year. “We have so much talent in every position. Emma, Irina, Alyssa and Samantha will have huge roles this year for the offense and the defense is looking better than ever.”

Reilly’s 134 points led the team last season. Lynch notched 86 goals and 17 assists. DeGennaro (54 goals; 17 assists) and Amorison (30 goals; 16 assists) were also potent offensively. DeSimone had 12 goals and four assists and played a key role on both ends of the field.

Gianmarino, Bengston  and Knowles continue to be integral to Huntington’s aggressive defense, while Stafford is currently sidelined from an injury.

Alyssa Amorison maintains possession while carrying the ball into Shoreham-Wading River’s zone last season. File photo by Kevin Freiheit
Alyssa Amorison maintains possession while carrying the ball into Shoreham-Wading River’s zone last season. File photo by Kevin Freiheit

Tesoriero recorded 140 saves in goal last year and looks to improve as a senior. The Blue Devils will also be relying on senior attack Mackenzie Maloney, freshman midfielder Emma Greenhill, junior goalie Taylor Moreno and senior faceoff and defensive specialist Heather Forster, along with several skilled underclassmen.

“The team is excited and hopeful about the upcoming season,” Lynch said. “We are returning almost every player and have some great new additions in our underclassmen. The team worked especially hard … in our first outdoor practice, in preparation for [the first] two scrimmages. With a tough schedule ahead of us, the team plans to focus on one opponent at a time. We are looking to top last year’s county semifinal appearance with a trip to the finals.”

As the Blue Devils settle into outdoor practice, players are already returning to top form.

“It was a little unfortunate that we had to play indoors for the first week, but that makes it that much better to finally be on the turf,” Reilly said.

The team took to the field today at Islip at 4:30 in the first Division II game of the season, but results were not available by press time.

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