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Erika Karp

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Supreme Court judge throws out lawsuit against Shoreham solar project

The DeLalio Sod Farm in Shoreham, where a solar panel facility is in the works. File photo by Erika Karp

Brookhaven Town reached the trifecta of adopting renewable energy codes when it embraced Suffolk County’s model solar code last week.

After previously adopting the county’s geothermal and wind energy codes, the Brookhaven Town Board approved the one for solar, which will permit solar energy production facilities by planning board special permit in the town’s industrial zones. According to Suffolk County Planning Commission Chairman Dave Calone, the town is the first in the county to adopt all three model codes.

“Brookhaven is the place where renewable energy is moving forward,” Calone said prior to a public hearing on the matter on Aug. 6.

Deputy Town Attorney Beth Reilly said the code applies to the town’s industrial districts, L Industrial 1, light industry; L Industrial 2, heavy industry; and L Industrial 4. Permitted uses in light industry include banks, agricultural or nursery uses, places of worship, day cares, health clubs, manufacturing within a building, offices and warehouse spaces, while uses in heavy industry include manufacturing of asphalt, cement fertilizers, and chemicals; junkyards; farmers markets and stockyards. L4 districts deal solely with the generation, transmission and distribution of electrical energy.

“The intent of this section [is] to provide adequate safeguards for the location, siting and operation of solar production facilities,” the code states.

The day before the Town Board’s adoption, a state Supreme Court judge dismissed a lawsuit against the town, its planning board and zoning board of appeals that sought to overturn the town’s approvals for a solar-energy production facility in Shoreham.

Eight Shoreham residents listed under the community group Shoreham Wading River Advocates for Justice filed the lawsuit in November against the town entities, along with sPower, a renewable energy company based in Utah and California, and utilities PSEG Long Island and the Long Island Power Authority. sPower has an agreement to sell power generated at a future 50,000-solar panel facility, located on the DeLalio Sod Farm, to PSEG. Many residents who live near the farm have advocated against it, saying the project is too large for a residential area.

Calone said he believes the new solar code, which outlines where the solar arrays should be located, will lead to new projects being welcomed to communities.

The total coverage of solar panels cannot exceed 60 percent of the lot area and freestanding panels cannot reach more than 20 feet above the ground, according to the code, which also adds buffer and setback restrictions. In addition, the code outlines design standards for the solar panels.

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) thanked Calone and Councilmembers Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Connie Kepert (D-Middle Island), who worked with the county on the code.

“The one thing that is so beneficial is getting uniform code that can apply to all 10 towns so there is no guessing,” Romaine said. “It isn’t different from one town to another. It makes it simple for alternative energy to move forward.”

The Sound Beach Fire Department celebrated its 85th anniversary with a parade and fair on Saturday, Aug. 8. The event drew hundreds of spectators on the beautiful afternoon, as well as neighboring fire departments Miller Place, Rocky Point, Mount Sinai, Selden, Port Jefferson and Terryville.

Fire district offering $1,000 reward

The Lake Grove playground that was set on fire on Sunday, July 26. Photo from Centereach Fire District

The Centereach Fire District is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for burning down a playground at Eugene Auer Elementary School.

On Sunday, July 26, Centereach firefighters responded to a call for a fire behind the Lake Grove school, according to a press release from the fire district. The plastic playground was fully engulfed, but the fire quickly put out. However, the playground was destroyed.

“This wasn’t just any playground,” Fire Commissioner Julia Wilson said. “The community pitched in, joined together and raised money to erect it.”

The Suffolk County Police Department is investigating the Sunday night incident.

The board of fire commissioners unanimously voted to offer a $1,000 reward at their meeting last week. Anyone with information related to the crime, is asked to call Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS (8477) or submit the information electronically at www.tipsubmit.com.

Jason Kontzamanys takes on Dan Losquadro on Nov. 3

Road paving is just one of the issues highway superintendent candidates will debate. File photo by Erika Karp

Jason Kontzamanys has been working in the Town of Brookhaven parks department for a decade, but the Democrat said he is looking for a new challenge, which prompted his decision to face off against Republican incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro in November.

Jason Kontzamanys is running on the democratic ticket against incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro. Photo from the candidate
Jason Kontzamanys is running on the democratic ticket against incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro. Photo from the candidate

In a recent interview, Kontzamanys, 45, of Port Jefferson Station, spoke about his plans for his campaign and what he would do if elected to the position. He said his years of experience working as a maintenance mechanic in the parks department and with blue-collar workers makes him the man for the job.

This is Kontzamanys’ first time running for office and the Comsewogue High School alumnus recently went back to school to earn his master’s degree in social studies education from Dowling College. He plans to obtain his doctorate in education administration and become a school administrator.

“I knew I could make a difference,” he said about accepting the nomination.

Kontzamanys said he believed the biggest issue plaguing the department is the overuse of subcontracting.

“The taxpayers should be upset as well,” he said. “The taxpayer is paying for a unionized workforce and they’re not being worked to their full potential.”

Kontzamanys began working for Brookhaven at the landfill and currently works out of the parks department’s base in Holtsville, where he helps with “all aspects of construction and maintenance,” he said. This has given him the opportunity to be versatile and get to know the whole town, he said.

He also has his Class A Commercial License to operate heavy equipment.

Bringing the subcontracted work in house is one of the first steps Kontzamanys would take to help boost the department’s morale, which he alleged is almost non-existent. He said keeping an open-door policy would also help boost spirits.

“You have to keep an open mind, because everybody has the right to be heard, whether it’s a taxpayer or an in-house union member,” he said.

Kontzamanys also said he has a vision to modernize the department and reduce the department’s debt service.

Jason Kontzamanys is running on the democratic ticket against incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro, above. File photo by Erika Karp
Jason Kontzamanys is running on the democratic ticket against incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro, above. File photo by Erika Karp

Losquadro, who was elected as superintendent in 2013, said in a phone interview that he disagreed with Kontzamanys’ notion that subcontracting was bad for the department and the workers aren’t being used. Losquadro said there was a tremendous backlog of work that needed to be done when he took office.

“We needed to go out and contract for that work to keep up with the volume,” he said.

He added that department crews are still responsible for responding to day-to-day complaints and completing routine work. He said the response time for services performed has greatly improved and the fixed-cost contracts gave the department the ability to attend to a high volume of work.

“I think it has been a great boon for the taxpayer,” Losquadro said.

Losquadro also responded to Kontzamanys’ claim that morale was down in the department, stating it is “exactly the opposite,” as he as tried to maintain a direct and open line to his employees.

Making the department more environmentally friendly is also crucial to Kontzamanys, he said, and he spoke about going after federal grants for solar sidewalks and solar panels on highway department land.

Looking at the big picture, Kontzamanys wants to explore additional shared services between municipalities in order to create a synergy between them. For example, collectively bidding on asphalt could help drive down the price.

“I don’t want to just manage, I want to completely transform,” he said.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

Stock photo

Mosquito samples from Port Jefferson Station, Rocky Point and East Northport have tested positive for West Nile virus, Suffolk County Health Services Commissioner James Tomarken announced on Friday.

In total, six mosquito samples tested positive for the virus, bringing this year’s total to 13. While the insects were infected, no humans, horses or birds have tested positive for the virus in Suffolk County this year.

Two samples collected from Port Jefferson Station on July 14; one sample collected from Rocky Point on July 16; and one sample collected from East Northport on July 17 tested positive, according to a press release from the health services department. Two other samples were gathered from Copiague and Dix Hills.

West Nile virus was first detected in birds and mosquito samples in Suffolk County in 1999, and is transmitted to humans by mosquito bites. According to the Center for Disease Control, 70 to 80 percent of those infected with the virus do not develop any of the symptoms, which can include fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea and rash. Severe cases — less than 1 percent of infections — could lead to a neurological illness.

Tomarken said while there is no cause for alarm, his department is asking residents to help in their efforts to reduce the exposure to the virus.

First, residents should try to eliminate stagnant water where mosquitoes breed. Popular breeding grounds include tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, discarded tires, wading pools, wheelbarrows and birdbaths. In addition, residents can make sure their roof gutters are draining properly, clean debris from the edges of ponds and drain water from pool covers.

To avoid mosquito bites, residents should minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, cover up when mosquitoes are most active, use repellent and make sure windows and doors have screens in good repair.

To report dead birds, which may indicate the presence of the virus, residents should call the county’s West Nile virus hotline 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 vector control division at 631-852-4270.

For medical related questions, call 631-854-0333.

A horseshoe crab no more than 4 years old. Photo by Erika Karp

The Brookhaven Town Board has officially backed Supervisor Ed Romaine’s push for a horseshoe crab harvesting ban at town parks and properties.

At a meeting on July 16, councilmembers unanimously supported a resolution that requests the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation close North and South Shore parks and underwater lands to horseshoe crab harvesting and recommends strategies to reduce the harvesting. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) also spoke at the meeting and threw in his support for the effort, as it would help protect the crab population — which, according to some reports, has decreased.

“I support this resolution and encourage its passage and compliment the very fact that it has been initiated,” said Englebright, who chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, and a local fisherman, left, speak at a Brookhaven Town Board meeting. Photo by Erika Karp
State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, and a local fisherman, left, speak at a Brookhaven Town Board meeting. Photo by Erika Karp

In May, Romaine announced he would seek a horseshoe crab harvesting ban for areas within 500 feet of town-owned waterfront properties. Fishermen often use horseshoe crabs for bait, but the crabs are also used for medicinal purposes, as their blue blood, which is worth an estimated $15,000 a quart, is used in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries to detect bacterial contamination in drugs and supplies.

Advocates for the ban have said the crabs, whose species is 450 million years old, play a vital role in the ecosystem, as birds like the red knot eat the crabs’ eggs.

Local parks covered within the town’s request include Port Jefferson Harbor; the western boundary of the Mount Sinai inlet; underwater lands and town-owned shoreline of Setauket Harbor; and Shoreham Beach.

The DEC already has bans in place at Mount Sinai Harbor and West Meadow Beach.

In addition, the town asked the DEC to consider mandating fishers to use bait bags and/or artificial bait; banning the harvesting of horseshoe crab females; and establishing full harvest bans several days before and after full moons in May and June — the crabs’ nesting season.

Those latter recommendations were not included in the original resolution, but were added after weeks of discussion on the issue.

Local baymen have said their livelihoods would be jeopardized by any further restrictions, and the seamen remained opposed to the resolution last Thursday. Many also disagreed with officials that the crab population was decreasing.

“If you were with us you would know the quantities are there,” Florence Sharkey, president of the Brookhaven Baymen’s Association, said at the meeting.

Sharkey added that alternative baits have been tried, but don’t work.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine holds a horseshoe crab as he calls on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp
Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine holds a horseshoe crab as he calls on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp

Despite the testimony, the Town Board moved forward with resolution, which had been tabled for nearly two months. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) called the decision a difficult one.

During public comment, Englebright invited the fishers to speak before his committee, as the state is wrestling with the issue as well.

The assemblyman introduced legislation in March that would impose a moratorium on harvesting horseshoe crabs and their eggs until 2021. While the bill wasn’t voted on in the last legislative session, a different bill, which outlines similar recommendations to the DEC regarding crab conservation and management, was approved.

Englebright said the law would be revisited in two years. He said he hoped the DEC would get better data on the crabs in the future as well.

While the state continues to grapple with the issue, Englebright noted the town’s requested ban is different, as it pertains to parkland.

“This is a park and public expectation is different than [at] the general shoreline,” he said. “A park is usually a place that animals have the opportunity to have refuge.”

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Mount Sinai school board Trustees Robert Sweeney, left, and Peter Van Middelem, right, are sworn in as board president and vice president, respectively. Photo by Erika Karp

The Mount Sinai school board has a new vice president this year.

At the district’s annual reorganization meeting on July 1, Peter Van Middelem, who just finished his first year on the board, was elected to the position in a 4-1 vote. Van Middelem, a retired New York City firefighter, succeeds former Vice President Donna Compagnone, whose term was up this year and decided not to seek re-election.

Van Middelem said his main objectives for the new year include keeping positive communications and relations with the community and the district’s teachers, seeing how new programs, such as Columbia University’s Teachers College Writing Project, which provides writing curriculum and professional development for teachers, is implemented, and keeping taps on the new full-day kindergarten program.

“I know that our emphasis right now is to make sure kindergarten is running and up to speed,” he said in a phone interview.

Van Middelem commended his predecessor for all of her work and stated that he had big shoes to fill as vice president.

Trustee Lynn Capobianco, who was re-elected to her second three-year term in May, cast the lone dissenting vote at the meeting. She said she couldn’t support Van Middelem as he allegedly did some political campaigning in his role as president of the Mount Sinai Lacrosse program. According to the Internal Revenue Service, 501(c)(3) organizations are “prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

Lynn Capobianco takes her oath of office. Photo by Erika Karp
Lynn Capobianco takes her oath of office. Photo by Erika Karp

Capobianco said that in doing so Van Middelem jeopardized the tax-exempt status of the organization. According to an IRS database, Mt. Sinai Lacrosse Inc’s status had been automatically revoked in February 2013 for failing to file a return for three consecutive years. Van Middelem declined to comment on Capobianco’s concerns.

“I respect him greatly for the work he has done for that organization, but based on those issues I think the leadership comes into question,” Capobianco said.

While the board saw a change in its vice president, Robert Sweeney, who was elected to his second three-year term in 2014, is staying put as president. Board newcomer Mike Riggio was unable to make the first meeting and was sworn into his position at an earlier time.

Sweeney thanked the board for its vote and seemed to set the tone for the 2015-16 school year. He pointed out how the trustees were all wearing pins that read, “Respect public education.”

“This is an important statement that we are making about our teachers. … We respect them,” he said.

Sweeney continued to speak about the importance and need for public education.

“I wouldn’t be here and in my career without it,” he said.

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Despite the rainy evening, Mount Sinai seniors’ spirits were still high at their graduation on Saturday night.

More than 200 graduates received their diplomas and were treated to speeches by Salutatorian Brendan Zoto, who will attend Stony Brook University in the fall, and Valedictorian Seth Brand, who heads off to Harvard University. Brand told his fellow grads and the audience to remember the importance of saying thank you and laughing, and received a standing ovation for his remarks.

Valedictorian Seth Brand. Photo from Mount Sinai school district

They volunteered countless hours, participated in numerous activities and have taken more than 40 Advanced Placement courses combined, so it should come as no surprise that Seth Brand, Brendan Zotto and Tiffany Ong are at the top of Mount Sinai High School’s 2015 graduating class.

Seth Brand
With a GPA of 102.399, Seth Brand graduates as this year’s valedictorian and will head to Harvard University in the fall.

The varsity soccer and basketball player said he plans on studying biology, but is still undecided as he wants to explore and see what he is most interested in.

“I think I’m going to find what I really want to do upon going to Harvard,” he said.

Brand added that he knows whatever he ends up doing, it will involve making a difference in others’ lives.
Over the course of his four years at Mount Sinai, Brand took a total of 24 AP classes and exams — 13 of which he self-studied for — and passed every single one.

In addition to playing sports, Brand served as class president in 10th and 11th grades, and as president of the National Honor Society. He was also vice president of the school’s Environmental Out Reach club, coordinating beach cleanups and collecting recyclables.

Brand reflected fondly on his time as a Mustang and said he benefited from being in small school. He also gave a shutout to his teachers and the friends he has made.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better place to go.”

Brendan Zotto

Salutatorian Brendan Zotto. Photo from Mount Sinai school district
Salutatorian Brendan Zotto. Photo from Mount Sinai school district

In addition to being the Mustang’s senior class president, Brendan Zotto is also this year’s salutatorian, graduating with a 101.213 GPA. He heads off to Stony Brook University in the fall and will major in computer engineering.

Zotto said a programming class he took as a freshman spurred his interest in the subject. After taking the AP Physics C exam, which he self-studied for, Zotto said he realized he was interested in computer hardware as he learned about circuitry, and electricity and magnetism.

“I’m hoping college is an experience like that, where I learn one thing and it leads me to something else,” he said.

In his spare time, Zotto, a member of the cross country track team, said he enjoys running.

His favorite memory from high school, he said, was participating in the National Honor Society’s Video Game Tournament, where students played Super Smash Brothers Melee and raised money for the group.

Zotto, who is also vice president of the Computer Club and treasurer of the Science Club, said he hopes to one day make and improve on current computer hardware.

The salutatorian said college would offer him the “experience to learn more about myself and about what I’m studying.”

Tiffany Ong
Tiffany Ong rounds out the top trio and is this year’s senior class poet. Ong is graduating with a 101.146 GPA and will head to New York University in the fall, where she’ll major in nutrition and dietetics.

Senior class poet Tiffany Ong. Photo from Mount Sinai school district
Senior class poet Tiffany Ong. Photo from Mount Sinai school district

Ong said she picked the major because she has a passion for the sciences, health and food.

“I just love how we can take care of our bodies and be athletic and still have a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

The student government secretary said she stays active in a few different ways. She played varsity tennis until her junior year and currently spends much of her time dancing at Backstage Studio of Dance.

While Ong’s dream job would be to dance for a living, she said she understands how challenging that is and will explore creating a major at NYU that combines her passions for dance and nutrition.

“Hopefully, I can help dancers in the future, or any other athletes.”

The senior also has a love of art and music. She is an accomplished violin player, having served as concertmistress of the high school’s orchestra, ensemble leader of the chamber orchestra and a section leader in the Long Island String Festival Association.

Ong said she enjoyed attending Mount Sinai because it is a small school where you get to know everyone, but she is also excited for new experiences college will bring.

“I’m looking forward to seeing new people, being on my own, growing up really fast, especially being in the city.”

Faces off against incumbent Sarah Anker for 6th District seat

Steve Tricarico photo by Erika Karp
Steve Tricarico photo by Erika Karp
Steve Tricarico photo by Erika Karp

After years of working in the public sector and for local government, Republican Steve Tricarico, Brookhaven Town’s deputy highway superintendent, is making his first run for elected office.

The 30-year-old Wading River native will face off against incumbent Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) for the 6th District seat in November. In a recent interview, Tricarico touted his years of experience working within local governments and his fiscally conservative approach when it comes to budgeting.

Bettering the county’s finances is a main focus of his campaign, Tricarico said. He was critical of the county increasing departmental fees, over relying on sales taxes and borrowing to pay for its operating expenses. He said the county, like its residents, should be living within its means and cut its borrowing.

“The county just doesn’t seem to be getting that message,” he said.

Tricarico said he took issue with how the county overestimated its sales tax revenue in 2014 by 1.5 percent, causing an $18.1 million shortfall, according to a June Fitch Ratings report. Despite the shortfall, the county budgeted for a 4.87 percent increase in sales tax for 2015.

Tricarico said this practice is “hurting our ability to function,” and if elected, he wouldn’t budget for any increase in sales tax, as to not overestimate.

Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman John Jay LaValle described Tricarico as the “ideal candidate,” and one that people — from Dan Losquadro to former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy — have sought out to work with.

“He has really excelled everywhere he has gone,” LaValle said.

Prior to working for the town, Tricarico worked as a district manager for LIPA, liaising between government officials and constituents. He also worked under Levy in the intergovernmental affairs unit. Tricarico said the jobs provided him with the best background as he understands local government, constituents and budgets.

Sarah Anker file photo by Erika Karp
Sarah Anker file photo by Erika Karp

Tricarico, who still lives in Wading River with his wife, Francine, said their two-year-old daughter, Charlotte, served as an inspiration for him to run as he wants to leave the county better than how he found it for her and for future generations.

As an adjunct professor at Farmingdale State College, Tricarico said he hears from students all of the time about how they would like to stay on Long Island, but just can’t because of the high-cost of living and lack of good jobs.

So if elected, he said he would like to explore ways to provide additional incentives to local businesses and create an economy that grows jobs. All options must be on the table when looking at how to better local government and its economy, Tricarico insisted, stating that he would explore the privatization of some government functions, like health and social services.

“As county representatives there is only so much we can do, but in order to start keeping good businesses here on the Island, we need to make sure that our county legislator, especially in the 6th District, is representing the constituents of the 6th District,” he said. “In my opinion, the current county legislator is rubber-stamping every policy that comes across her desk.”

In a phone interview, Anker said she is focusing on her responsibilities as a county legislator. She said she is grateful that she has had the opportunity to serve the people of the 6th District and would like to continue to do so.

Like Tricarico, Anker said she believes the county needs to start borrowing less. She described taking office in 2011 during one of the worst fiscal challenges anyone has faced  — a time when the county didn’t have much of a choice but to borrow.

“I don’t think he understands the government process,” she said.

Anker also defended her position on creating task forces to look at problems. Tricarico described this as creating “bureaucracy to solve problems.”

But Anker said the groups focus government resources on an issue and create plans to fix things. For example, the SAVE Hotline, which provides schools a direct line to police in the case of an active shooter situation, came out of task force discussions.

“I don’t wait for something to happen,” Anker said. “I actively and proactively [look at] what needs to be focused on, what needs to be changed.”

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