Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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The Mount Sinai cheerleading team screams in exultation as they learn they won nationals. Photo from Megan McWain

Even when a Mount Sinai cheerleader falls, whether it’s in a competition or on the mat, they have the will to dust themselves off and work even harder.

That has been the theme for this cheerleading season, Mustangs coach Megan McWain said, who along with fellow coach Christina Lotito has seen the team through a season full of ups and downs, culminating with a Division II large-school victory at the 2019 UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 10. 

The Mount Sinai cheerleading team perform a routine in Orlando, Florida. Photo from Megan McWain

When the team members learned they had won, McWain said the girls could not contain their excitement.

“They were so ecstatic — some of them were jumping up and down, some were sitting on the floor crying,” she said. “It’s just a big ball of emotions. We worked since May in open gyms getting ready for this moment, and this was the pinnacle of what they wanted to achieve. To learn that you did it is just so amazing.” 

The team arrived in Orlando Feb. 7 and went down to the local football fields for one final run of routines surrounded by thousands of other cheerleaders from all 50 states. The jaw-dropping sight of seeing so many teams compete didn’t do anything to dampen their spirits. 

The squad had suffered a number of setbacks early in the season, including a few illnesses and injuries that led to a number of missed chances and defeats. Eighth-grader Emily Kandell suffered an injury in January and was only cleared to get back on the mat a week before the team went down to Florida.

During the competition, McWain said their performance wasn’t at peak the first day of the tournament. The team was in third going into the last day of the competition. During their final performance the team had a misstep, and one girl took a fall. The only way they could win despite the fumble was if they pushed themselves to their limits, and McWain said, they accomplished that.

“It’s hard to win with a fall — a lot of teams when they fall, they kind of deflate after that,” she said. “But we didn’t. We performed a thousand times harder just to fill out the rest of that score from that fall.”

The Mount Sinai cheerleading team perform a routine in Orlando, Florida. Photo from Megan McWain

While this is not the first time the team has taken home the first place trophy at nationals, having won in 2014 and 2016, McWain said it is the ultimate goal that the cheerleaders work all year round for. She hopes the team can continue the streak as nine members of the squad are expected to graduate this year.

There are three large-school cheerleading teams that compete in Suffolk County, but Mount Sinai is the only Division II squad. The Lady Mustangs will represent the county in the state’s 2019 

Cheerleading Championships will be hosted in Rochester March 2. 

“We’re trying to hit a clean routine and were actually able to put all our kids on the mat including our alternates, so it will be really good to have all of them on the mat and working together as a team to get another championship,” McWain said. 

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Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

The Town of Brookhaven is looking to save money by consolidating property tax collections with other municipalities in the town, starting with Port Jefferson Village.

At the Brookhaven Town Board meeting Feb. 14, councilmembers voted unanimously to use approximately $478,000 of New York State grant funds to consolidate tax receiving methods with the village. 

“So, the tax collection will be on the front end and the back end.”

— Louis Maroccia

“I am grateful that some our discussions with the village have resulted in actual shared services,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. “We are always happy when we are able to work collaboratively with other municipalities to streamline services to our residents and reduce costs.”

Brookhaven Town Receiver of Taxes Louis Marcoccia said the first phase of the program, which he expects to be implemented by June, will include printing out tax bills and sending them to village residents. Under the agreement, the village will reimburse the town for postage costs, which are estimated to be $2,000.

The second phase of the new program will introduce third-party software into the village, so it may integrate the entire financial system, though Marcoccia added the town still has to sign a contract with the company concerned and didn’t wish to name the software. He said the new program is expected to start being implemented in the third quarter 2019 and be finished before the end of next tax season in April 2020.

“So, the tax collection will be on the front end and the back end,” the tax receiver said.

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant said the village will still be doing property assessments and creating the warrants, but instead of creating bills internally will send all the info over to Brookhaven. She added the new system will also enable village residents to pay bills online, but people will still be allowed to file taxes in person at Village Hall.

“If it creates efficiency, after all they say time is money,” Garant said. “I’d say it’s different than how it was years ago, more than 50 percent of us are paying our bills online.”

“If it creates efficiency, after all they say time is money.”

— Margot Garant

The funding of the new program comes from Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition Award, which granted Brookhaven $20 million in June 2018 to use in municipal consolidation. The intent behind the award was to reduce property taxes through the consolidation of government services, and the town has outlined a total of 16 projects it hopes to tackle in the next few years. 

Brookhaven’s tax receiver said the new system is expected to save the town more than $50,000 in the first year through cutting down on labor and reducing redundancy in the tax collection system. While Port Jeff is the first village to receive this new system, Marcoccia said in upcoming years it will be expanded to encompass all eight of the town’s villages.

“You take the $50,000 and multiply it if we’re able to do all eight, that’s not chump change,” he said.

Along with the consolidation of tax services, Brookhaven Town is also looking to reduce government bloat by consolidating public works operations within the villages, consolidate billing in ambulance districts, establishing shared information technology for cloud-based services and cybersecurity, and create townwide records storage and archive management.

Satellite image of the 795-acre Brookhaven Calabro Airport. Image from Google Maps

Most couples agree there’s nothing worse than receiving a breakup message on Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, that’s the message New York City received Feb. 14 when Amazon said it would no longer build its next headquarters in Queens.

Reactions from Long Island’s elected officials was swift. U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said the blame rests on New York’s unfriendliness to business.

“New York’s 1st Congressional District would be happy to be Amazon’s Valentine today and take these 25,000 great-paying jobs,” Zeldin said in a statement. “New York wouldn’t even need all the subsides if we didn’t have one of the worst business climates in the United States. We must level the playing field, reduce taxes and burdensome regulations, stop picking winners.” 

“New York wouldn’t even need all the subsides if we didn’t have one of the worst business climates in the United States.”

— Lee Zeldin

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who were both heavily involved in the Amazon deal, also made public comments lamenting the loss. Meanwhile, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) reaffirmed the town would welcome the retail giant with open arms. 

Now that Amazon is no longer courting New York City, Romaine offered to sign over the 795 acres of Brookhaven Calabro Airport in Shirley if the corporation chooses Brookhaven as a site of their future headquarters. 

“We would close and give them the airport,” he said. “That’s a transfer of property. We’re interested in economic development.”

The town had offered the airport to Amazon before they had originally settled on Queens. The supervisor said the same tax deal proposed by Cuomo is still on the table should the company want to come to the East End of Long Island. The state offered a total of $1.2 billion in refundable tax credits to Amazon, in addition to providing a $505 million capital grant to aid in building its new headquarters. With New York City also pitching in, the total aid package would have been at least $2.8 billion. Romaine said the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency could make up the same amount of aid should Amazon rethink its plans and come back to Long Island.

A representative from the Brookhaven IDA did not respond to requests for comment.

The town supervisor was adamant the airport location was perfect for Amazon’s needs, boasting of its proximity to Sunrise Highway, the Long Island Expressway and William Floyd Parkway. The site is also a few miles away from Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Mastic-Shirley train station. He said the proposed location’s close proximity to the Hamptons, Shoreham and Wading River would be an extra incentive for those looking to make day trips.

“They’re looking for a campus-life situation, and this would provide that,” Romaine said. “If they wanted to they could keep one of the runways for light aircraft. That is totally negotiable.” 

“If they wanted to they could keep one of the runways for light aircraft. That is totally negotiable.”

— Ed Romaine

Despite the pushback the Queens Amazon headquarters received from residents and city politicians, Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Brookhaven residents are much more open to the idea of a company like Amazon coming in.

“We’re looking for corporate businesses that would create good-paying jobs,” she said. 

Romaine said he knows it’s a long shot, especially with Amazon saying in a Feb. 14 blog post it would not be conducting its new headquarters search again. Instead, the corporation would be looking toward northern Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee, for its new headquarters location.  

“I think it’s worth a shot,” the supervisor said. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

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By Rich Acritelli

The sounds of the Rocky Point student’s cheers rippled throughout the school’s gymnasium Feb. 9. They packed every inch of the stands, and some screamed their encouragement while standing toward the sides of the gym, all to watch their high school faculty and teachers duke it out for the first Swoopin’-N-Hoopin’ basketball game. 

Beyond the roars and excitement of watching educators layup and hurl attempted 3-pointers, the event and its participants helped raise over $3,500 for a local veterans group. It all came thanks to the idea of one longtime Rocky Point teacher who was wishing to give back to the community.

Since the moment he entered Rocky Point High School as a social studies teacher in 1986, Brooke R. Bonomi has always lived up to the words of service to helping this North Shore school district.  Armed with a contagious smile, a can-do attitude and a drive to excel at every task, this longtime educator organized one of the biggest events that Rocky Point High School has seen in some time. Bonomi mobilized almost every part of this school to lead a Wounded Warriors basketball game Feb. 8 to raise money for Rocky Point VFW Post 6249’s efforts to help veterans who have been physically devastated from the war on terror.

As the fans entered the hallway toward the gym, they were greeted by countless baskets of assorted prizes collected by a multitude of school clubs, items that were later won by the fans through a massive raffle that raised $3,500 to assist the needs of the local VFW’s wounded warriors initiatives. 

“This night of fun should be a tradition that is permanently carried on at our school.”

— Julia Salino

Even as Bonomi ran this entire function, he also played basketball with his fellow staff members that were comprised of four teams. Each squad of teachers, administrators, aides, security and even grounds keepers were coached by the students who drafted and traded these players in the days leading up to the game. Bonomi even enlisted the help of Athletic Director Charles Delargy who served as the basketball commissioner for this game.  During the draft that was held in the school’s auditorium, Delargy read the top selections as main rules interpreter for this athletic event, and guidance counselor Michael Conlon helped pick and play music that was tailored toward each participant.

Bonomi planned this fundraiser for months with his Be a Nicer Neighbor Club. Support was also provided by school athletes, the technology club, the school band as well as staff and community members to help ensure that this basketball game was a smooth success.  

As he approaches the end of his career, Bonomi has always been motivated to get the students, teachers and administrators involved in causes to benefit the community and beyond. For weeks, the students saw Bonomi’s presence in the main hallway selling tickets, dribbling a basketball and playing music to promote this game. A constant presence next to him were the brilliant smiles of fellow teachers Dan Capell, Jenessa Eilers, Gina Grillo and Carly Tribby who were helping bring attention to this event.

VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore served as the grand marshal for the game. The veteran served in South Vietnam and Cambodia during the Vietnam War where he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is constantly reminded of this conflict through injuries that he had sustained overseas. Cognitore marveled at the ability of Bonomi to perform “a magnificent job in utilizing all ages of teachers to participate in front of a packed house of fans.” 

Standing next to the military color guard that posted the flag within the center of the gymnasium was senior Joshua Vogel who performed the national anthem.

From the beginning of this project, Bonomi wanted the kids to accept ownership in putting the game together. Rocky Point senior Trey Miller, a skilled basketball and baseball player, was thrilled to support this function.

“I love helping Bonomi and putting our minds together to make unique ideas happen for our school,” Miller said. “This was most importantly a patriotic program that showed respect to our local veterans that deserve to be recognized for their services to this nation.”  

All week and during the course of the game, the well-known creativity of Bonomi was always present through player nick names.  These included library media specialist Jessica Schnall’s “Barkley,” Assistant Principal John “The Total Eclipse” Hart, social studies teacher John “The Bullet Train” Mauceri, English teacher Kevin the “Ginga Ninja” Parker, and the Most Valuable Player for this evening, math teacher Jay “Rubber Band Man” Rand.

Bonomi also enlisted the aid of the technology club, which played music and performed colorful commentary over the offensive and defensive prowess of these teams. While the players took a break during halftime, members of the band played music for the packed house of fans. Resembling a New York Knicks or Islanders game, the younger teachers ran along the stands throwing balled up Swoopen’-N-Hoopin’ T-shirts to the roaring fans. Through all of these activities, Bonomi had a radiant smile on his face as he watched a charitable and patriotic night come together. 

“Spirit and pride was abound with a packed house and I certainly appreciate the passion and energy Mr. Bonomi puts forth to create a positive climate and culture for our student body.”

— Susann Crossan

High school senior Julia Salino works closely with Bonomi’s club and she said she hopes the event continues into the future.

“This night of fun should be a tradition that is permanently carried on at our school,” she said.

Since the moment that he started teaching, coaching and being a club adviser decades ago, Bonomi has long preached the importance of helping others. High School Principal Susan Crossan, who has known this educator for many years, said she was extremely pleased about the game

“Spirit and pride was abound with a packed house and I certainly appreciate the passion and energy Mr. Bonomi puts forth to create a positive climate and culture for our student body,” the principal said. 

One of the most important goals Bonomi showed to the school’s younger teachers was the significance of donating time and energy into the kids and community even well after the final period of the day rings. Over the last 33 years, Bonomi’s presence has represented the following words of President Theodore Roosevelt who wrote: “…(the figure) who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

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Mill Creek running after Feb. 12 snows. Photo by Kyle Barr

At a Port Jefferson village board meeting Feb. 4, Mayor Margot Garant held up a picture of West Broadway in front of Ecolin Jewelers from March 2, 2018. It’s a panorama of part of the village underwater after the area was hit by winter storm Riley, taken by photographer Craig Smith. 

Though that photo spoke of how the village had once been known as Drowned Meadow, Garant said it was telling that the picture could have been any number of occasions in the past year.

“Unfortunately, this is becoming an all too familiar picture,” Garant said. “We have probably had five or six events since 2018 that caused the three-way intersection to flood … flooding in and around Barnum Avenue is becoming a regular concern.”

“In short, I think it’s going to get worse.”

— Frances Campani

In July 2018, Port Jeff put in an application to New York State for a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant to update the 2013 Waterfront Revitalization Plan, an appendix to the village Comprehensive Plan Update. At the Feb. 4 meeting the board voted to go forward with Port Jefferson-based Campani and Schwarting Architects, who in part submitted for the grant last year, to create a visioning study to address the issue of stormwater runoff, storm surges and future rising tide protection in an effort to resubmit for the grant in July.

The proposed analysis would look at the flooding problem in the harbor, including Main Street and East and West Broadway, what causes it and what is predicted to happen in the next two, five and 10 years.

“In short, I think it’s going to get worse,” said architect Frances Campani. 

In addition, the proposal document for the visioning study states they would study the watershed groundwater flooding problem, including bringing in existing data on stormwater catch basins, the culvert running to the Mill Creek at Village Hall, flooding and ponding at Barnum Avenue and flooding in the area between Wynne Lane and Maple.

While the shoreline and Harborfront Park would be the expected areas of concern, Campani said the most concerning areas are East and West Broadway and the main stormwater drainage line, which partially runs underground and has become overcharged with water in the past. She added another problem could be the amount of asphalt in the village, which unlike dirt cannot absorb any water. In addition, there could be a mention of widening certain parts of Mill Creek to allow more water flow.

“Two things should be studied, certainly the park itself with an eye to flood mitigation and waterfront park design methods to help the uplands areas,” said Campani at the Feb. 4 meeting. “Also the watershed area — it’s so closely linked we should tie them together as a study.”

“A thing that really needs to be looked at is where do you put the water.”

— Larry Lapointe

In September 2018, Port Jefferson was hit with major rains that inundated the village in water, causing people to become trapped in their cars and thousands of dollars in damage to local businesses, especially village staple Theatre Three. In the basement of the venerable theater, waters rose as high as four or five feet. New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he was concerned that such damaging flooding could happen at low tide.

He and other local officials feared what could happen if the same circumstances occurred at high tide.

The visioning study proposal said it would be completed in four months, adding up to a total cost of $9,800.

Village trustee Larry LaPointe said it was important to consider just where the water might go in efforts to drive it away from the village business hub.

“A thing that really needs to be looked at is where do you put the water,” LaPointe said. “How do you get the water to go into places where it’s not interfering with our use of the village?”

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By Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River’s girls basketball team had their work cut out for them in an out-bracket playoff game against Sayville Feb. 11. The Wildcats had faced Sayville twice during the regular season and lost by 19 and 22 points, respectively. However, this was a different Wildcat team with a swarming defense that held Sayville at bay, leading by five at the half and then by three to open the 4th quarter. Sayville was able to tie the game with 4 minutes left as both teams struggled to find the rim. Tied at 41 all with six seconds left, the officials called a foul on the Wildcats, sending Sayville to the line shooting two. Sayville made the first but missed the second as the Wildcats rebounded the ball with less than four seconds remaining. SWR managed to get a shot off, but it missed its mark as time expired in a heartbreaking 42-41 loss.

Co-captain and senior Michele Corona led the way for the Wildcats with 22 points, fellow co-captain Abby Korzekwinski, a junior, netted 8 while eighth-grader GraceAnn Leonard banked six. The loss concludes the Wildcats season with a 9-10 record in League V with a 9-12 record overall. 

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A trash can outside a home in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

Many Port Jefferson village residents woke up one morning at the end of January to find their garbage would be taken by a different contractor.

In a letter dated Jan. 28 sent to all Port Jeff residents signed up with them, Ronkonkoma-based Quick-Way Sanitation Corp. said it would no longer be servicing the village and, as of Feb. 1, its contracts would move over to Yaphank-based Maggio Sanitation.

“Since garbage facilities have been raising dump fees on a monthly basis, we are no longer able to offer our current price and would have to raise residents [sic] astronomically,” read the letter signed by President of Quick-Way Joseph Litterello.

A representative from Quick-Way said they had no additional comment.

Residents then received an additional letter from Maggio dated Feb. 1 saying their company would be servicing their account, and they would provide residents with two new garbage totes, one for trash and one for recycling, within the next eight to 10 weeks.

On a post of the Unofficial Port Jeff Villagers Facebook group Feb. 3 village Mayor Margot Garant said she was not notified by the company about the change. She said in additional posts the changeover did not have anything to do with the village government in particular.

“Now you have things like the Brookhaven town landfill closing soon — there’s a lot of issues with garbage nowadays.”

— Joe Colucci

Joe Colucci, the president of Middle-Island-based Colucci Carting, posted to the unofficial Port Jeff Facebook page Feb. 10 saying that if 500 residents call with interest, he would expand his operation to include residential garbage pickup, though during a phone interview he said he is also considering if 300 residents show interest he will provide services to the village. So far, Colucci said he has received about 30 calls over the weekend. Pricing for garbage pickup would be $35 per month and $70 bimonthly.

“It’s got to be beneficial for me to go in,” he said.

Colucci said he was curious why Quick-Way didn’t simply raise its fees instead of ending service, though he has seen the cost of carting garbage increase for several decades.

“The cost to dump garbage has [gone] up significantly, almost $100 a ton to get it out of the Island,” he said. “Now you have things like the Brookhaven town landfill closing soon — there’s a lot of issues with garbage nowadays.”

According to the official Port Jefferson Facebook page, there are eight sanitation companies currently allowed to operate in the village, still including Quick-Way, Maggio and Colucci Carting, as well as Islandia-based Jet Sanitation Services, Bay Shore-based National Waste Services, Holbrook-based Superior Waste Services of New York, Brentwood-based V. Garofalo Carting and Babylon-based Winters Bros. Hauling of Long Island. Some of these companies have, for the most part, only serviced local businesses or provide dumpsters.

Town of Brookhaven residents pay an annual fee for their garbage and recycling pickup, but since Port Jeff village is an incorporated government, it has operated on different rules, asking residents to set up their own garbage carting contracts.

The official Port Jeff Facebook post also said any company can apply to operate in the village with a one-year license, first by providing the village with a $2,500 bond payment, provide proof of liability, property and workmen’s compensation insurance, and by paying a processing fee of $50 plus $10 per truck operating within the village.

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President of Strong Island Rescue Frankie Floridia stands with the Bakewicz family after delivering the calves to the farm Feb. 13. Photo from Frankie Floridia

A North Shore-based animal rescue group has managed to save two young calves before they were slaughtered at a New Jersey farm, and now the animals have found sanctuary with a Wading River farm.

The young Calves Woody (green) and Buzz (blue). Photo from Justin Bakewicz

Frankie Floridia, president of the nonprofit animal rescue group Strong Island Rescue, said he learned about one of the animals from being tagged in a Facebook post. The four-day-old calf was born in Amish country in New Jersey, but was to be sent off to slaughter to not waste the mother’s milk production. Floridia drove up there and learned there was another calf, roughly the same age, that they could also save from the slaughterhouse.

“The Amish had taken [it] away from its mother because it was a male, and they don’t need the calves — they don’t want to waste the milk they’re selling.,” he said.

Back on Long Island, Justin Bakewicz, a member of the family-owned Bakewicz farm in Wading River, had recently experienced a terrible loss. Bakewicz had purchased two, four-month-old calves in January. The health of one of them, named Bo Duke, started to fail. The family brought the calf to Jefferson Animal Hospital in Port Jefferson, and then brought him home and kept it in their kitchen while theyconnected him with an IV and gave him constant shots. Unfortunately, the calf passed away Feb. 8.

“It was a real big disappointment to me, my family and the community — everyone was a big part of it,” Bakewicz said.

Only a few days later, people started to tag the farm owner on the Facebook post about the calves Strong Island Rescue had saved. Bakewicz said his mother, Marianne, thought it might be too soon for new calves, but once he saw the scampering young Jersey bull calves he knew they were right for him.

“We heard that Bakewicz had a calf that passed away a couple days ago, and [Justin] was saying ‘it was like fate,’” Floridia said.

Justin Bakewicz, left, helps feed the calves Woody (green) and Buzz (blue). Photo from Justin Bakewicz

Bakewicz said the two young animals are full of energy.

“The two babies — they’re like puppies,” he said. “One is one week old he’s so full of Vitamin D and I turned around, and there was the other one. I said, ‘well I can’t say no. I got to take them both.’”

The farm owner has taken to raising the calves in his own house where he feeds them from large milk bottles three times a day. Bakewicz has even taken them out for walks.

“I’m walking these things like dogs,” Bakewicz said. “I walked them around my block today and every neighbor was sticking their heads outside going ‘what the hell is that I thought it was a Great Dane.’ Everybody in the neighborhood is excited to watch them grow.”

It will be another week or two of watching the young bulls grow large enough they can move out to the farm.

The farmer asked the community for suggestions of names, and it has settled on Buzz and Woody, after the movie “Toy Story.” The names were suggested by Christin Paparelli Santillo who will receive a free t-shirt.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) along with other legislators propose plastic legislation. Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

County legislators are looking to restrict the sales of several plastics, some harmful to health and others harmful to the environment.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), along with members of the Legislature’s Single-Use Plastic Reduction Task Force announced four policy initiatives intended to reduce plastic and polystyrene waste in the county at a press conference Feb.13. 

“Today we announce policies that will come to define our county’s environmental legacy for generations to come,” Hahn said in a press release.

“Long Island has some of the highest cancer rates in the country.”

— Sarah Anker

Hahn and the task force have outlined regulations directed at local businesses and the county. One of the proposed bills focuses on polystyrene, banning it in food service products including plates, cups, containers and trays. It would require businesses in the county to use biodegradable products, though the bill would exempt items used to store uncooked eggs, raw meat, pork, fish, seafood and poultry. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services classified styrene as a potential human carcinogen and, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, polystyrene manufacturing process is the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste in the United States. 

“[Styrene has] recently been upgraded from a possible carcinogen to a probable carcinogen — a cancer causing chemical,” Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said. “Long Island has some of the highest cancer rates in the country.” 

Hahn said polystyrene and plastics are causing a waste management problem as well. 

“You see waste in waterways, on our beaches, on our roadways,” she said. 

A second bill would require single-use plastic beverage straws and stirrers to only be given in Suffolk County by request as a means of reducing plastic consumption. As an alternative to plastics, businesses would give customers biodegradable products, such as paper straws. There is an exception for those who have a disability or medical condition. 

Hahn and the task force also plan to prohibit the use of plastic products in all Suffolk County parks as part of their third initiative.  

Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) supports the proposed bills. 

“We see that these things are happening — I know with the plastic bag ban there was some push back,” he said. “But it is nice to be able to do something that will make a difference and that works.”

In conjunction, the task force proposed a requirement that all future contracts with concessionaires at county parks include a restriction on the use of plastic and nonbiodegradable cups, utensils and
beverage straws. 

Hahn and the task force advised the issue of waste produced by these products is a more urgent problem than some people realize, and the county needs to clean up its act. 

“We as a society as a whole need to continue to research and study this issue and product.”

— Kara Hahn

These bills are a continuation of Hahn’s and others countywide initiative to reduce single-use plastic straws. One project, called Strawless Suffolk, started in July 2018 and looked for 100 seaside restaurants in Bellport, Greenport, Huntington, Northport, Patchogue and Port Jefferson Village take a pledge to stop using plastic straws by Sept. 3, 2018.

Hahn cites some landfills on Long Island are almost at full capacity and said that it not just about recycling more, rather its reducing the use of plastic items and to reuse things.

“We as a society as a whole need to continue to research and study this issue and product,” she said.”

To further decrease the use of plastic products, a fourth initiative will call to replace existing water fountains with new ones designed to allow bottle filling at county facilities that have 10 or more employees and in county-owned parks that have water dispensers. 

“People will be less likely to use plastic water bottles and will be able to fill their own reusable bottle if they bring it with them to our county buildings, parks and beaches,” the Setauket legislator said.  

The two nonlocal laws in the initiatives package, the installation of water fountains in county facilities and the concessionaires requirement, could be passed as early as March 5, depending upon legislative discussion and a vote. The other two local laws that apply to businesses in the county will require a public hearing, but could end up as law as early as April 9. 

“Plastic waste has become a tangible threat to our $5.6 billion tourism-driven economy,” Hahn said. “We are Long Islanders, our identity is tied to the water.”

Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) and his wife Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset). Photo by Kyle Barr

Less than a month ago, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) was still debating whether he would run this year for Suffolk County executive. 

On Feb. 11, Kennedy stood shoulder to shoulder with other top Republican leaders to announce his running for the top county office.

“None of us forgets who we work for, and that’s the taxpayer,” Kennedy said. “We will stop the hemorrhaging, stop the bleeding. We will cut up the credit cards, start to pay our debts and bring life back to Suffolk County.”

John Kennedy Jr. (R) points to the county’s loss in bond rating. Photo by Kyle Barr

Kennedy, along with other county Republicans, has been consistent in attacking county Executive Steve Bellone (R) for the current state of the county’s finances, pointing to a drop in bond rating from A3 to Baa1 on the Moody Rating Scale since 2015. In a Jan. 31 article by TBR News Media, Eric Naughton, Suffolk’s budget director, said while the county’s bond rating has dropped, Kennedy was “overstating” the impact. He went on to say Moody’s, which gives the bond grades to municipalities, was only looking at the past and not the future. 

Kennedy has called for a 90-day top to bottom look at the county’s offices to see which ones can be pruned, which employees can be shuffled around and what belts can be tightened. He also called for an end to excessive spending, while cutting county fees and reducing the size of the county’s red light camera program. He said he was especially concerned with delays in payment to public employees and to contractors.

“We don’t pay our daycare providers on time, we don’t pay anybody on time,” the comptroller said. “We make them all our bank.”

John Jay LaValle, the Suffolk County Republican committee chairman, said during a phone interview the party is throwing its weight behind the current county comptroller. So far two other Republicans have announced their candidacy, including Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). LaValle said former police officer Larry Zacarese, who previously ran for Suffolk County sheriff in 2017, was also considering running on the Republican ticket. 

The Republican committee chairman said he would ask the current candidates to sit down and work out their differences, saying a primary could do damage to the party’s chance to win.

“If we do a primary, we give the executive seat to Bellone,” LaValle said.

Kennedy announced his plan to run for office at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge, surrounded by U.S. Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Peter King (R-Seaford), along with many other elected Republicans. King ran again for his position alongside Kennedy in the 2018 electoral season.

“If we do a primary, we give the executive seat to Bellone.”

— John Jay Lavalle

“He ran us all into the ground — I’ve never seen a harder working campaigner,” King said.

Trotta said during a phone interview he would be willing to sit down with Kennedy and the Republican leadership, potentially to drop his candidacy if he agrees with what he hears.

“I welcome John Kennedy to the race, this is what democracy is all about, and no one knows more than John about what a financial mess the Bellone administration has created,” Trotta said.

Kennedy has worked in public office for years, working with current Brookhaven town supervisor Ed Romaine (R) when he was county clerk before being elected to the Suffolk County Legislature in 2004. He then later ran for and was elected to the Suffolk County comptroller position in 2014, boasting at the time he was vastly outspent by his opponent on the campaign trail.

Bellone’s office came out the gate swinging as Kennedy’s candidacy was announced.

“No one has opposed government reform or voted to increase spending and debt more than John Kennedy,” said Bellone spokesperson Jason Elan in a press release. 

“Under [Bellone’s] watch, I have seen red light cameras pop up over intersection after intersection, finding new ways to put their hands in their pockets,” Zeldin said during Kennedy’s campaign announcement.

Kennedy was also joined by his wife Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), who is running again this year for re-election. Both husband and wife said partially it took so long for him to announce his candidacy because of the concern one’s campaign fight could affect the other’s.

“It was a weighing process for both of us,” Legislator Kennedy said. “It’s about what he can do to make it better here so that everybody can afford to stay.”

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