Monthly Archives: August 2015

By Jared Cantor

On Sunday, Huntington’s Heckscher Park ball field was home to classic cars of all types at the annual Robert J. Bohaty Memorial Classic Auto Show. From Rat Rods to Muscle cars, there was a vehicle for everyone’s liking. The event is hosted by the Northport Centerport Lions Club.

Stock photo

Nineteen more mosquitoes and two birds have tested positive for West Nile virus in various neighborhoods across Suffolk County, Health Commissioner Dr. James L. Tomarken announced on Monday.

The mosquito samples, collected from Aug. 17 to 19, hailed from: Lindenhurst, West Babylon, Northport, Huntington Station, South Huntington, Greenlawn, Commack, Nesconset, Smithtown, Saltaire on Fire Island, Port Jefferson, Farmingville, Holtsville, Yaphand, Southold and East Hampton. Two blue jays collected on Aug. 14 from Stony Brook and a blue jay collected on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25 from Smithtown, also tested positive for the virus.

“The confirmation of West Nile virus in mosquito samples or birds indicates the presence of West Nile virus in the area,” Tomarken said. “While there is no cause for alarm, we urge residents to cooperate with us in our efforts to reduce the exposure to the virus, which can be debilitating to humans.”

To date, this year Suffolk’s total West Nile count comes to 99 mosquitoes and seven birds. No humans or horses have tested positive for the virus in Suffolk this year.

First detected in birds and mosquito samples in Suffolk in 1999, and again each year thereafter, the virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.

While Dr. Tomarken said there’s no cause for alarm, the county is urging residents to reduce exposure to the virus, which “can be debilitating to humans.”

“The breed of mosquito known as culex pipiens/restuans lay their eggs in fresh water-filled containers, so dumping rainwater that collects in containers around your house is important,” he said.

Residents should try to eliminate stagnant water where mosquitoes breed, in order to reduce the mosquito population around homes. That includes: disposing of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers; removing discarded tires; cleaning clogged gutters; turning over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when they’re not being used; changing the water in bird baths; and draining water from pool covers

Most people infected with West Nile will experience mild or no symptoms, but some can develop severe symptoms, including high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. The symptoms may last several weeks and neurological effects may be permanent. Individuals, especially those 50 years of age or older or those with compromised immune systems, who are most at risk, are urged to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Residents are advised to avoid mosquito bites by: minimizing outdoor activities between dusk and dawn; wearing shoes and socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors for long periods of time or when mosquitoes are more active; using mosquito repellent when outdoors, following label directions carefully; and making sure all windows and doors have screens and that all screens are in good condition.

To report dead birds, call the West Nile virus hot line in Suffolk County at 631-787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.

For medical questions related to West Nile virus, call 631-854-0333.

Bill would limit cars allowed per bedroom

Supervisor Ed Romaine listens to resident concerns at the town meeting. Photo by Giselle Barkley

It’s a battle between the town and landlords as officials and concerned homeowners keep trying to combat illegal housing.

A proposed Brookhaven Town law aims to prevent overcrowding in rental homes by limiting the number of allowed tenants to four unrelated people — half as many as currently permitted — and restricting the number of permitted vehicles at a rental house to one car per legal bedroom plus one additional car. At a four-bedroom rental house, that translates to five allowed vehicles.

The proposal is the most recent in a string of initiatives to prevent illegal house rentals, including a measure that outlawed paving over front yards to make additional space to park cars.

“That’s how bad it was,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said during last week’s Brookhaven Town Board meeting.

The housing issue came to the forefront a few years ago with the help of Bruce Sander, the president of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners. In Three Village and neighboring areas like Port Jefferson and Middle Country, residents have spoken against illegal and often overcrowded rental homes that are filled with Stony Brook University students, citing quality of life issues such as noise and overflowing trash.

Romaine said the rules detailed in the proposed law would make it easier for the town to identify rental homes that house more people than legally allowed.

“There are a number of people who have taken over foreclosed houses for sale with four bedrooms,” Romaine said. “They’ve carved it up and put around eight to 10 students in them.”

Sander said students aren’t the issue — landlords are.

“The law department and town investigators are on top of this all the time because the landlord never obeys the laws,” Sander said in an interview, referring to landlords who rent houses to more tenants than legally allowed. “It’s just the nature of the beast; it’s just what they do.”

Sander helped found Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners around three years ago, after he moved to Stony Brook and identified two illegal boarding houses across the street from him. As the boarding houses became disruptive, residents in the area became concerned.

“I saw the value of my house and the value of my property just go down the tank.”

Tracking the number of people living in one rental home has been difficult for the town, but officials hope counting cars will make the process easier. The town’s overall goal is to provide legal housing for students without disrupting their neighbors.

“Stony Brook is a middle to upper-middle income,” Romaine said. “People moving in with their kids expect a certain quality of life.”

One member of the concerned homeowners group said at the town board meeting that he would like the town to focus on property upkeep as well.

“We’d like [the homes] to stay at a level of cleanliness and order that the community has around [the home],” the man said.

While rental housing and landlord issues are not as bad as they once were, Sander said there is more to be done.

“We still have a lot of work to do; these houses are in disrepair,” Sander said during the board meeting. “Some of these landlords just believe that they’re immune and that our group is going to go away. Well no, we’re growing. We have 1,400 to 1,500 homeowners that are standing strong against these illegal houses.”

The public hearing on the latest proposed law is set for Thursday, Oct. 1, at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall in Farmingville.

Test results show grounds are sound

David Badanes speaks at a Northport-East Northport school board meeting last week. Photo by Eric Santiago

By Eric Santiago

The soil at Norwood Avenue Elementary School is safe for children, an environmental engineer told the Northport-East Northport school board last week.

“I would expect concentrations in my own backyard would be very similar to what we found on the school property,” said Paul Lageraaen, the environmental services department manager for H2M architects + engineers.

Last month, the school board tasked Lageraaen’s firm with analyzing the school grounds to determine if the area had been contaminated with hazardous chemicals out of “an abundance of caution, and in response to low levels of contaminants found in the soil of a neighboring farming property proposed to be developed into a winery,” according to a statement from Superintendent Robert Banzer. Dust from a property that is proposed to be developed into a vineyard next to the school may have fallen on school grounds while the land was being cleared out, officials said. Lageraaen presented the firm’s findings at Wednesday night’s school board meeting.

Of the dozens of herbicides, metals and pesticides tested, only one was discovered at noteworthy concentrations. Arsenic, a common ingredient in pesticides before it was banned in 1991, was found at moderate levels in the northwest corner of the school. The proposed vineyard property is along the school’s eastern border.

This was not a great concern to Lageraaen.

H2M tested its soil samples against New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation Regulations Part 375. According to these regulations, residential areas should have a maximum arsenic concentration of 16 parts per million (PPM). The sample from that corner of the school was analyzed at 17 PPM. This was one of 16 samples taken from across the school grounds. The rest all tested below this level.

Lageraaen pointed out that regulations are not an actual limit.

“It’s defined as an objective,” he said. “It’s not a hard and fast action level.” This is because there isn’t a definitive consensus for what that level should be. For example, New Jersey regulations say that 19 PPM should be the maximum concentration for residential areas.

But the key finding Lageraaen cited was that were was no sign that soil around the school had been moved, disturbed or contaminated by a dangerous chemical.

“The soils that are at Norwood school are the same soils that have been there for 60 years,” he said. “If I found an area where suddenly arsenic or some other compound was at 100 PPM and everything else was at 15 PPM, then you have to be concerned.”

Once the presentation was finished, David Badanes, vice president of the school board, asked the central question for the board.

“I guess the bottom line question is this: Are the children that are going to play at Norwood safe?”

“Yes,” said Lageraaen, who also coaches community soccer at the Northport fields. “I have no qualms about returning there to coach or my kids playing on those fields.”

In closing out the discussion, board President Andrew Rapiejko said that the board has been in contact with the town about the proposed vineyard, and encouraged concerned community members to do the same.

In a phone interview on Thursday, Fred Giachetti, who owns the property and wants to develop it into a vineyard, stressed that he has contacted local officials and experts to ensure the property is managed responsibly.

“I have never been irresponsible and reckless in my whole life,” he said. “I’m a graduate of Northport High School. My wife and I have been trying to do something that is bringing back the agrarian traditions of our community because we have a great interest in it and a family history. We think it’s a wonderful idea — instead of building more McMansions or condos or townhomes, we could try and bring something back to the community that we’ve lost.”

The Overbay apartments are planned for the former Islander Boat Center on West Broadway, above. File photo

The developer of a controversial apartment complex planned for Port Jefferson’s West Broadway may get financial assistance to help build it.

The Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency announced last week that it had accepted an application for consideration from Hauppauge-based Overbay LLC, which has approval from the Port Jefferson Village Planning Board to construct two 35-foot buildings containing 52 rental apartments.

Overbay is owned by North Shore developer Jim Tsunis.

Some residents have spoken against the project, slated for the corner of Brook Road at the former Islander Boat Center property, with concerns about increased traffic and density. Part of their resistance is linked to the fact that another apartment complex called the Residences at Port Jefferson — a 112-unit building — is due to go up next door at the corner of West Broadway and Barnum Avenue, in the place of the former Heritage Inn. TRITEC Real Estate Company in East Setauket is leading that development.

“We don’t want to be urbanized,” resident Phil Griffith said at a public hearing earlier this year. “It is just too much.”

In both projects, neither of which required variances for approval, parking will be contained underneath the apartments and the housing will replace longtime community eyesores at village’s western entry point.

According to the IDA, which aims to boost the economy within Brookhaven Town by assisting businesses in locating or expanding in the area, it will consider Overbay’s application for financial assistance over the coming few months and will hold a public hearing on the matter.

“We’re pleased to consider this application for this project, which will grow the much-needed supply of rental housing near to Stony Brook University and Port Jefferson’s Mather and St. Charles hospitals,” IDA Chairman Fred Braun said in a press release.

The three-story apartment buildings are expected to create two permanent jobs and 150 construction jobs over a two-year period, the IDA said. Rents could range from $1,800 to $2,200.

There is no commercial component to the Overbay project, though there had been commercial space included in previous proposals for the site.

The IDA has already assisted another apartment project in the area this year, the Rail Realty complex along Texaco Avenue in upper Port. That project, dubbed the Hills at Port Jefferson, will include two three-story buildings for a total of 74 rentals — a mixture of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments — and underground parking.

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers freed a trapped bird in Northport. Photo from SCPD

A bird has got new wind beneath its wings, thanks to rescue efforts by the Suffolk County Police Department’s Marine Bureau, whose officers freed the creature on Sunday after it became entangled on an offshore fuel platform in Northport.

Officers Charles Marchiselli and Michael O’Leary were aboard Marine Bravo when they observed the bird tangled in string along the railing of the platform, about two miles north of National Grid’s Northport power plant, at approximately 11:15 a.m. O’Leary distracted the bird with a wildlife pole while Marchiselli covered it with a blanket and cut the entangling lines.

The bird appeared uninjured and swam away after being freed, police said.

The officers saw the bird while they were conducting a homeland security check of the platform, which is used to offload fuel for the power plant.

National Grid owns and operates the plant, and sells its produced energy to utility PSEG Long Island, which distributes the power to Long Island residents.

The scene of the Friday evening crash on Woodbury Road. Photo by Marilyn McDermott

By Rohma Abbas & Elana Glowatz

An elderly woman died in Cold Spring Harbor Friday evening when she lost control of her car on Woodbury Road and crashed into the woods.

The Suffolk County Police Department said 80-year-old Eugenia Kouwenhoven, a Huntington resident, was driving a 2014 Buick Regal west on the road at the time of the crash, close to 6:30 p.m. She was pronounced dead at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Woodbury Road has been the topic of much debate at Huntington Town Board meetings, as residents have cited numerous car crashes along the road. The town commissioned a traffic study of the thoroughfare, but the stretch of roadway along which Kouwenhoven crashed and lost her life is not in the traffic calming study area, according to A.J. Carter, a spokesman for the town.

“The unfortunate accident occurred on a portion of Woodbury Road that is past Cold Spring Harbor train station, which is not part of the study area,” Carter said.

Marilyn McDermott, a resident of Woodbury Road, echoed similar sentiments. She questioned whether the accident had much to do with the safety road. She was on the scene shortly after the accident and said she didn’t see any skid marks.

“I’m not sure if it was inherent of the actual dangers of the road or singular to her,” McDermott said in a Monday phone interview.

Kouwenhoven was a widow, and a mother to three children, a grandmother to 10, and a great grandmother to four, according to her obituary on A.L Jacobsen Funeral Home’s website.

Attempts to reach Kouwenhoven’s family this week were unsuccessful.

Friends of Kouwenhoven, who also went by “Jean” or “Gene,” shared some of their memories and condolences on an online tribute page.

One person spoke of Kouwenhoven’s gourmet cooking skills and her “kind and thoughtful” nature. She said Kouwenhoven would often wash and style the hair of neighborhood girls before a birthday party.

“Can you imagine someone taking the time to [style] 2 or 3 young girls’ hair?” Janet Stanton Schaaf wrote. “It took hours! I felt so pampered and so glamorous, and so cared for. What a wonderful feeling”

Schaaf continued, “Jean had such a positive impact on my life and I hope she now sees how much she added to our little Huntington neighborhood of kids. Thanks for everything, Jean.”

Cathy and Walter Kennedy also left a message honoring Kouwenhoven.

“She was so full of life and knew how to enjoy it,” they wrote. “She had a special way of wrapping herself around your heart. We feel blessed to have known her and to have shared many a time with her.”

While he’s not handling the case and doesn’t know the exact details, 2nd Precinct Dt. Sgt. James Scimoni said it’s “definitely possible” the woman could have undergone a medical emergency before crashing. But there’s no confirmation of that, he said.

On the subject of Woodbury Road traffic safety improvements, town officials have already embarked on fixes to attempt to make the road safer.

On Tuesday, the town released a statement noting that it had implemented the first phase of its traffic study consultants’ recommendations. Town highway department workers trimmed trees along the shoulder of the road, running 2.5 miles from Main Street in Huntington village to Pulaski Road in Cold Spring Harbor. The workers also replaced road signs to increase visibility — the 165 new signs are larger than the ones they replaced, including larger chevron signs to further highlight the horizontal curves in the roadway.

The town installed new turn and reverse turn signs to replace curve and reverse curve signs, bringing the signage up to federal standards. Also, the town upgraded the reflectivity of traffic signs.

“That stuff is the first phase,” Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) said in a phone interview. “Now we’re waiting for the analysis of the road for the second phase to implement the suggestions for narrowing the road, the markings and the strips in the middle.”

This story was last updated on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at 5 p.m.

Retired 2nd Precinct leader to head up Sept. 12 event

The 6th annual Huntington Awareness Day parade will feature longtime commander of the 2nd Precinct as its grand marshal, and will also honor a number of community members from across Huntington Town.

Ed Brady file photo by Rohma Abbas
Ed Brady file photo by Rohma Abbas

Inspector Edward Brady, who retired earlier this year at the helm of the 2nd Precinct, which serves Huntington, will lead the festivities as the parade’s grand marshal on Saturday, Sept. 12, according to a town statement. Honors will also be bestowed on a police officer wounded in the line of duty, a 101-year-old wartime aircraft worker, a volunteer VA chaplain and two families with longtime contributions to the community.

Those honorees include Suffolk County Police Officer Mark Collins, a 12-year veteran of the force who was shot in the neck and hip in March while chasing a suspected gang member who had fled after a traffic stop in Huntington Station; Sophie Sarro, a 101-year-old Huntington Station native who while trained as a seamstress worked during World War II helping to manufacture airplanes for Grumman Aircraft; and Frank LaBarbara, a Korean War veteran and retired owner of an engineering-manufacturing company who has volunteered for many years as a Eucharistic minister at the Northport VA Medical Center.

Also to be honored are the Harris and Sorrentino families. The Harris patriarch, Rufus Harris, is an accomplished mechanic who overcame segregation in South Carolina, moved to Huntington and founded an automobile repair shop, Rufus & Sons, which was one of the first African-American owned businesses in Huntington. The shop included two generations of the Harris family and was in business for 40 years.

The Sorrentino family has been fixtures on the Huntington business scene for many years. Andrea Sorrentino has operated a shoe repair shop in Huntington village for 35 years and his sons, Pasquale and Andre, own an auto body shop. The have been active in civic and charitable affairs, as well as in the Huntington Fire Department, where Andre Sorrentino is a commissioner.  For each of the past five Thanksgivings, the family has given away 300 turkeys to needy families.

Bands, floats, vintage cars, service groups and local merchants will join the march down New York Avenue through Huntington Station from West Hills Road to the municipal parking lot between Railroad and Church streets. The parking lot will also be the location of the annual Awareness Day fair, which will include performances by local artists and booths offering crafts and services. The parade will begin at 11 a.m. and the fair will remain open until 5 p.m.

“We hope that people will come to the parade and stay for the festival, which thanks to the generosity of our sponsors remains a great day of entertainment, free activities for children and a chance to learn about the many organizations offering services to help the community,” said parade founder Dolores Thompson.

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Girls’ lacrosse players will compete at the Division I level next year

Northport's Katie Cook defends against a Bay Shore player. File photo by Desirée Keegan

By Clayton Collier

It’s not often that an individual high school team gets multiple athletes to commit to college programs.

The fact that Northport girls’ lacrosse will send seven athletes to play at the collegiate level this fall is impressive enough, but longtime head coach Carol Rose said this isn’t out of the norm.

“Typically almost all my seniors go on to play lacrosse in college at the next level; very few do not,” Rose said. “Six girls is about the average per year, and we already have five other kids committed.”

Heather Engellis competes for Northport in a game against North Babylon last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Heather Engellis competes for Northport in a game against North Babylon last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

This year, the team exceeded the average.

Kristen Brunoforte, Heather Engellis, Victoria D’Amato, Gabbi Labuskes, Emily Yoo, Amy Breitfeller and Katie Cook will be playing at Jacksonville University, the University of Oregon, the State University of New York at Cortland, The Naval Academy, Binghamton University, Wesleyan University and SUNY Geneseo, respectively.

Five rising seniors have also already committed, as Courtney Orella, Ryan Columbus and Noelle Peragine who have verbally committed to Villanova University, Fairfield University, and Georgetown University, respectively, and Kelly Jacobsen and Natalie Langella will attend Bryant University.

Labuskes, an All-County attack who has already started with the Naval Academy, said Northport gave her the skills necessary both as an athlete and as a leader.

“Overall, I think it pushed me to better myself as an athlete, a friend and a person,” she said. “I have taken all the lessons learned and carried them with me. Many of which I have been able to use here at the Naval Academy, and will continue to use and be grateful for for the rest of my life.”

Heather Engellis competes for Northport in a game against North Babylon last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Heather Engellis competes for Northport in a game against North Babylon last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Engellis, an All-League attack, said she didn’t start playing lacrosse until the past few years, and wasn’t sure the sport was for her until being convinced by Rose.

“I improved significantly thanks to Coach Rose,” she said. “She actually was the one who persuaded me to play, and looking back, I cannot thank her enough. She’s taught me everything from the basics to all the technical stick work and beyond.”

Rose, who also coaches the Long Island Yellow Jackets, started the Northport program in 1990 with her husband, Alton. Throughout the entirety of the program’s history, the couple has coached together.

“We are best friends and love watching film together and discussing all aspects of the team together,” Rose said of working with her husband. “He is great defensively and we complement each other well, since I am more offensive orientated.”

Brunoforte, an All-League goalie, said she enjoys the husband-and-wife coaching dynamic. Though entirely coincidental, her new coaching staff at Jacksonville is also a married couple.

Gabbi Labuskes competes for Northport in a game against North Babylon last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Gabbi Labuskes competes for Northport in a game against North Babylon last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“I feel like when coaches and assistant coaches are close it makes teaching the game a lot easier,” she said. “They complement each other, especially in the sense that they usually teach two different sides to the game.”

In addition to Brunoforte, Engellis and Labuskes, the loss of an All-County midfielder in D’Amato, All-League attack in Yoo and key defenders in Cook and Breitfeller to graduation, would be quite the hit for any program to immediately recover from on paper. At Northport, however, it’s next woman up.

“There is a lot of potential for next year,” D’Amato said. “They have a lot of talented girls.”

Despite all the comments and kind words for Rose, she said it’s due to her athletes’ own hard work.

“They dedicate a lot of time to their sport year-round and showcase themselves to college coaches throughout the country,” Rose said. “We give them a lot of opportunities for exposure and they take advantage of it.”

Proposal would add community notice, input

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington Town residents looking to create two-family homes could face new requirements for approval, if a proposed law gets the green light.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) is behind a new measure that would change the process for residents to create two-family homes in the R-5 Residence District. Currently, residents are permitted as-of-right to create or convert properties into owner-occupied two-family homes in R-5 without going through any planning or zoning board review. This legislation would mandate owners apply to obtain a special-use permit from the Huntington Town Zoning Board of Appeals, which would review the application on a number of criteria and would also consider community input.

Those criteria include aesthetics, like ensuring the house looks like a single-family home of no more than two stories, and restricting features like exposed cellars, large attics, tall roofs, multiple driveways and decks and
prominent secondary entrances, according to the proposed law. The owner also has to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the board that he or she would sustain “severe hardship” if the application was denied and that the hardship wasn’t self-created.

The goal of the law, Edwards said, is to afford neighbors the chance to comment on the application. Edwards said she was inspired to create this legislation after speaking with a Greenlawn resident who came home one day surprised to find a two-family home in the community.

“You shouldn’t be able to go to work one day thinking that the house being built next to you is a single family and come home from work and find it’s a two-family house,” Edwards said. “Intuitively, that just doesn’t sound like something we want to do.”

It’s not a great number of properties this would affect, according to Edwards. Since 1992, the annual number of permits issued for two-family homes averages about .8 a year. 

Edwards added that the new requirements would bring creating two-family housing in line with the public notice requirements for residents looking to create
accessory apartments.

“I’m not anti-two-family housing, so don’t get me wrong,” she said. “The only thing that I want this to do is to give the property owners the same right they have today, meet the same requirements, but add the fact that a community in your neighborhood that you are building a two-family house [in] should be able to
receive notification.”

When polled about their thoughts on the legislation, which will be up for a town board public hearing next month, Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (I) offered differing views.

Berland said she doesn’t think property owners should have “an unfettered right” to convert a one-family home into a two-family home.

“I’m more concerned about the community than I am about the property owner in this instance.”

The councilwoman said she supports the legislation but hasn’t made up her mind yet on how she’d vote, and she looks forward to hearing what people say at the public hearing.

Cook said he was researching the law. He expressed concern about the legislation being burdensome. “I just think it’s another way of overregulating.”

Richard Koubek, the president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, said his group is vetting the proposal at an Aug. 31 steering committee meeting, but at a glance, it appears the that the code change is “a smart move” to involve community input.

“The coalition supports multiple modes of housing and we understand that when you change from the single family to different housing modes, it creates some real nervousness,” he said. “And so the more that we can dispel and control that nervousness on the part of neighbors, with sound, sensible regulations, the better.”

The public hearing will take place on Sept. 16 at 2 p.m.

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