Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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Smithtown Councilman Tom Lohmann will compete with Democratic challenger Amy Fortunato for a seat on Smithtown Town Board. Photos by Kyle Barr

Town of Smithtown voters can choose between incumbent Tom Lohmann (R) and Democratic challenger Amy Fortunato for town council seat where both want to continue efforts toward downtown revitalization.

Fortunato and Lohmann stepped into the TBR News Media offices to debate about the problems and efforts circulating throughout the town’s eight hamlets.

After being in office 10 months, Lohmann said he has an appreciation for the inner workings of Smithtown’s government. While the councilman said he has worked hard with the town’s Highway Department to fix roads, he wants to see the local business districts built up to incentivize young people to remain in town.

“People I speak to don’t mind paying a little bit more if they have good roads,” Lohmann said. “These are things we use. You want to have businesses we can patronize. We don’t have businesses there because we let it deteriorate to something unsustainable.”

Democratic challenger Amy Fortunato is looking to break the Republican stranglehold on the town council, one that has been in place for more than two decades. She said the town needs to improve its communication and transparency with the community.

“Our towns look shabby, but we’ve got plenty of money, and our budget needs to move there,” Fortunato said. “What is so important is a comprehensive master plan — we’ve been talking about that for a long time, and I’m just concerned that the community has heard what we want to see in Smithtown.”

2019 Budget

On Oct. 5, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) released his draft 2019 budget that increases $4 million from this year, and includes a raise for all board members from $65,818 to $75,000. Fortunato said she
disagreed with the pay increase, especially when comparing the council members’ salaries to either Huntington or Brookhaven, two larger townships than Smithtown.

“I would not take that salary,” the Democratic challenger said. “[Supervisor Ed Wehrheim] should be longer in government before taking a raise.”

Lohmann said that, compared to previous boards, he and other council members are working full time on town matters. He says he is in his office full time, not including other night or weekend events. The councilman said the largest increase to the town’s budget is due the town’s employee health care costs, which he hopes to address if he gets another term.

“I think I’m worth $75,000,” the incumbent said. “One of the biggest increases is $1.1 million
to support health care costs. We’re on an unsustainable course of action. We have to look to
employees to subsidize their own costs.”

Lohmann was appointed to the board in January 2018 after the seat was vacated by Wehrheim.  Some, including Fortunato, originally protested the decision, saying that the move was unilaterally made without input from the community.

Infrastructure

The Town of Smithtown is involved in several sewer projects at various stages of development in Kings Park, Smithtown and St. James. Lohmann said that while New York State politics has put the project on hold by keeping an alienation bill required for the Kings Park pump station from being voted on in the state Assembly, he and the rest of the board are still wholly committed to these projects.

“We’re not going anywhere without sewers,” the incumbent said. “In Kings Park, it’s ready, but unfortunately what’s going on in Albany that died on the vine … A true comprehensive master plan has to involve community input and town hall meetings to drive the picture of what we want to see which is a living breathing document updated every 5 to 10 years.”

Fortunato said she is in full support of sewering, but that she wants the town to be open in relaying to the community what environmental impacts the new sewers could have.

“We got to be careful, and we want transparency,” she said. “We should have a public forum to present these options [for sewer treatment plants] and what we are looking at.”

Incumbent state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick will be challenged by Democrat Dave Morrissey at the polls. Photos by Kyle Barr

The two candidates running for New York’s 8th Assembly District, incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Smithtown) and Democratic challenger Dave Morrissey, agree on the area’s problems of high taxes and shrinking youth population. However, they disagree heavily on how the state should work to change it.

Fitzpatrick and Morrissey stepped into the TBR News Media offices where they discussed their varying stances on state and local issues.

Fitzpatrick is running again for his long-held seat on a number of fiscal issues, including
taxes, young people leaving Long Island and cutting back on government employee’s benefits.

“Unfortunately, when you look at the numbers, we continue to be a state in decline. We’re losing 100,000 people a year,” he said.

Morrissey, a local software engineer and project manager from Smithtown, is running heavily on reforming New York’s response to the opioid crisis. This comes after a personal tragedy where Morrissey’s son William died of complications due to opioid addiction in 2016.

“He wasn’t one of the statistics because he didn’t die over an overdose death, and there are many more deaths than most often reported because of this,” the Democratic challenger said. “All levels of government need to do more.”

Taxes/Cost of Living

Fitzpatrick sees a need to deal with union contracts and government employee pension programs, which he said is sapping the strength out of the economy. The assemblyman has campaigned to change automatic pay increases while employers and employees are in between labor contracts as well as pushing for a transition from pensions for 401(k)s for government employees.

“The tax burden is too high,” the assemblyman said. “You have to get every elected official out of the defined benefit retention system. That particular benefit and how we are compensated encourages fiscal irresponsibility.”

The Democratic challenger said that while his campaign has received union support, he would still push for school consolidation of resources. He opined best way to affect the school district’s taxes was to expand Long Island’s commuter infrastructure to appeal to young people and, hopefully, encourage new business growth.

“We need to have smart strategic investments that will have a real cost benefit,” Morrissey said. “If the only thing you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, and you can’t cut your way into prosperity.”

Health care/Opioid crisis

On the opioid treatment and health care, the challenger said there needs to be much more done on the state level. He supports medically assisted treatment for all drug or alcohol users who need it, opening up an addiction high school through the BOCES system, and opening up at least 11 more recovery centers, for which he suggests the state should get pharmaceutical companies to pay.

The incumbent said he feels it would be near impossible to get the pharmaceutical companies to pay for these programs, while agreeing it would help, he said funding from state government is never guaranteed.

Morrissey said he also believes in health care for all and supports the New York Health Act, which passed through the state Assembly but did not reach the floor of the state Senate. He said he would look to give the state more negotiatinpower with pharmaceutical companies.

“I think it’s a great system that needs improvements — something rolled out gradually,”
Morrissey said. “Big pharma has so much wealth, we should be able to negotiate on the process.”

Fitzpatrick said he disagrees with a health care for all program, and especially the New York Health Act. He would instead advocate for use of Health Savings Account programs, one where people can save money for health-related emergencies only.

“The system is not broken — it needs to be repaired and modified,” he said. “You want a system that attracts the best and the brightest doctors.”

From left, incumbent Assemblyman Steve Stern will run off against Republican Jeremy Williams Nov. 6. Photo by Kyle Barr, photo from Jeremy Williams

The New York State Assembly’s 10th District seat is up for grabs. Come Nov. 6, residents have the choice between age and experience, or a youth with enthusiasm.

TBR News Media was prepared  to host a debate with state Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) and his Republican challenger Jeremy Williams, but the latter candidate did not show.

Stern, a prior Suffolk County legislator for 12 years, won a special election to the state Assembly after Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) vacated the seat in January. Now, the incumbent said he has a great track record in government, sponsoring and helping to pass six separate bills in six weeks on a number of state and local issues.

“I was dropped into session and not even told where the bathroom was,” Stern said. “I’m proud in being able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.”

I’m proud in being able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.”

— Steve Stern

The 22-year-old Williams is a lifelong Huntington Station resident, and now lives in a house close to the one his great-great-grandparents built. The Republican challenger said previously that he decided to run for office after commuting to his job in Manhattan, working as a public relations representative for several technology companies, and seeing how expensive it was to live on Long Island.

Williams said he wants to focus on getting more funds to Suffolk and that he would work to end what he called an unfriendly business climate, especially in regard to high tax rates and fees.

“We have to fast track the application process for these businesses, maybe with a five-year property tax abatement,” Williams said in a phone interview after the debate.

Stern said he also believes that businesses need incentives to come to and grow on Long Island. Specifically, he would want to offer tax breaks for companies looking to set up shop on Long Island, and that he would use state funds to incentivize the county to reduce its business and development fees, specifically environmental fees. The incumbent  also said that he will focus on making sure Suffolk gets a higher percentage back from the $5 billion in taxes it pays out to the state annually.

“The $5 billion that we send up to Albany is enough to fund both Suffolk County and a good bit of Nassau county as well,” the Democratic candidate said. “If we receive some significant percentage of that back, our taxpayers would be able to have a better quality of life.”

In development, Stern, who was opposed to enterprises like Villadom that would have created a mall on vacant land in Elwood, said there should be more incentives from the state to build new projects on developed parcels rather than on open space. “Before anybody goes knocking down areas of pristine property there has to be an incentive for redevelopment,” he said.

Williams said he agreed with redevelopment over new developments, but he emphasized the problems with modern transit-oriented developments don’t aid in helping young people stay on Long Island.

“Transit-oriented developments are disingenuous — most of those affordable homes go to people 55 years or older,” he said.

Stern said if re-elected he would work with Republicans and Democrats to provide commuters or their employers access to funds for transportation purposes, and encourage programs for college students to work with local businesses or startups.

Transit-oriented developments are disingenuous — most of those affordable homes go to people 55 years or older.” 

— Jeremy Williams

“There has to be a public-private partnership that has real meaning for the development of this company, but as local taxpayers, if we are to make investments into this company and provide the intellectual capital, that this is going to be a company that will commit to its future growth on Long Island,” the incumbent said.

Williams said he agrees with more public-private partnerships with businesses, especially if they are located in areas of Huntington,  like stretches of the Melville business corridor that have degraded in both looks and number of storefronts. The Republican challenger added if he is elected he would be both willing and able to work with the Democrats in the state legislature.

“Lupinacci and other people in the district seat were in the minority seat for years, and they still got a lot done,” Williams said. “The only people I am beholden to are the people in my community.”

Overall, Stern said he is more than willing to work across the aisle with Republican colleagues.

“I don’t care what letter you have after your name. The most important thing is putting points up on the board and delivering to my community,” he said. “If nobody has a sit down with each other or a working relationship with each other, then top priorities don’t get done.”

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New York State Sen. John Flanagan, far left, and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, third from left, announce the $3.9M in state funding for infrastructural improvements. Photo by Kyle Barr

With funds finally in place for St. James sewers, Smithtown’s capital projects might finally be getting off (or under) the ground.

New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) announced Oct. 29 that the Town of Smithtown would be receiving $3.9 million from the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a non-specific discretionary pot of funding for municipal assistance. The funds will be added to the town’s available money to create a sewer
district along Lake Avenue.

This is how I see it, [the town] come up with the plans, and we do whatever we can to help them out, especially when it comes to the actual cost of the project.”

—John Flanagan

“This is how I see it, [the town] come up with the plans, and we do whatever we can to help them out, especially when it comes to the actual cost of the project” Flanagan said. “This is a great indication of cooperation: town cooperation, local cooperation and intermunicipal cooperation.”

In June, the town released a report provided by Melville-based H2M architects + engineers that calculated the projected costs of installing dry sewer mains and pump stations needed to build a sewer district for the Lake Avenue business district. The architectural firm came up with two methods to install the sewers: the first would cost approximately $3.8 million to install gravity sewers, a force main and pump station needed to reach a sewage treatment plant but would not provide for full road restoration; the second design would cost the town roughly $6.2 million with road restoration costs included.

The estimated costs for the proposed St. James Sewer District were calculated on the premise that Gyrodyne, LLC will build a sewage treatment plan with the capacity to accommodate its neighboring Lake Avenue businesses. Gyrodyne has continued to say it will work with the town, according to Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R).

“The main component to revitalize any business district is you have to reach the [Suffolk County] Board of Health requirements, and because of the present-day septic systems it’s just not possible to do,” he said. “The new sewer mains are what will make this project successful.” 

The town is currently sitting on $4.6 million for St. James business district improvements, including $2.4 million to replace the area’s 54-year-old water mains. The supervisor added he expects the town will sit down with engineers either in January or February 2019 to discuss the logistics of the project, and that construction could begin by fall 2019.

A number of local business people and civicleaders attended the Oct. 29 press conference where Flanagan and town officials announced the funding. Though many said they were excited by the prospect of sewers, they were also aware that construction, both the tearing and replacing of sidewalks and asphalt, could disrupt existing businesses. Wehrheim said there could be plans for doing the work in sections, separated by the connecting streets all the way down Lake Avenue.

“Everyone on this street is nervous about what’s happening. But I’m certain in the long run it will do amazing things for our town, community and business life.”

— Natalie Weinstein

“It’s going to be a huge disturbance, but we’re prepared for that,” the supervisor said.

Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James, said they will take the long-term view that the community will benefit more from construction.

“We’re going to help them, whatever the time frame,” Maher-Weisse said. “Our organization represents the businesses and we’ll be there to get people in to patronize.”

Natalie Weinstein, a Lake Avenue business owner and president of the nonprofit Celebrate St. James, an organization that hosts artistic events in the community, said the best way to revitalize the area is to make it focused on the arts.

“We have a wonderful challenge,” she said. “Everyone on this street is nervous about what’s happening. But I’m certain in the long run it will do amazing things for our town, community and business life.”

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Carlos Encarnacion, Santiago Tavarez and Juan Lopez-Enriquez are charged with allegedly operating a drug ring out of a Port Jefferson Station barber shop. Photos from DA's office

Three men involved with the Man Cave Barbershop in Port Jefferson Station have been indicted for allegedly selling narcotics, including heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, which they allegedly marketed as heroin, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D).

Juan Lopez-Enriquez, 41, the barber shop’s manager, along with fellow barber Carlos Encarnacion, 33, and shop regular Santiago Tavarez, 64, allegedly used the premises of their shop to both cut and sell narcotics at approximately one kilogram a month, making approximately $50,000 a month from these drug sales, according to Sini.

“The Man Cave gave barbershop customers a choice of hair styles and a choice of drugs,” Sini (D) said at a press conference where his office unsealed the 53-count indictment of the three individuals Oct. 24. “When they should have been focusing on cutting hair, these defendants were in the back room, cutting fentanyl and cocaine.”

Starting in January, law enforcement from the District Attorney’s Heroin Task Force, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, New York bureau of the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and the Suffolk County Police Department began investigating the alleged drug ring, using physical surveillance and electronic surveillance such as wiretapping. The police forces executed search warrants Oct. 4.

A search of the barber shop premises along with the other locations affiliated with the defendants revealed a hydraulic kilo press, two scales, packaging materials, approximately 20 grams of cocaine and approximately 200 grams of powder cutting agent, which is used to dilute narcotics to make them more profitable, according to the district attorney’s office.

Islip-based Attorney Robert Macedonio, who is representing Lopez-Enriquez, did not respond to a request for comment by press time. The defense attorneys for Tavarez and Encarnacion could not be reached.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon (D) said several deputy sheriffs worked undercover to aid in the business’ surveillance.

“Deputy Sheriffs are working in close collaboration with the District Attorney’s Heroin Task Force, and this multi-agency effort is getting more drugs off our streets and making our communities safer,” Toulon said.

A loaded semi-automatic handgun and a box containing 38 cartridges of ammunition, which allegedly belonged to Lopez-Enriquez, were also seized. The alleged dealer is also being charged with criminal possession of a firearm.

If convicted both Lopez-Enriquez and Tavarez face eight to 20 years in prison for the top count of first-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance. Encarnacion faces a maximum of three to 10 years with several counts of second- and third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.

“With fatal overdoses on the rise, law enforcement remains diligent in its pursuit to arrest those criminals seeking to fill their pockets on the vulnerabilities of others,” said Angel Melendez, the special agent in charge of HSI New York.

Man Cave Barbershop has since closed its doors, though review sites like Yelp show overall positive reviews from customers.

Bail was set for Lopez-Enriquez at $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond; $200,000 or $400,000 bond for Talverez; and $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond for Encarnacion. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jacob Kubetz.

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BiblioFlames and Breathe Inspiring Gifts are among the places in Port Jefferson Village cited by Village Center building manager Bob Hodum as hotbeds for paranormal activity. Photo by Kyle Barr

There are the old stories told only in whispers, and then there are the legends, which hide in the dark corners of local homes and shops. Port Jefferson has a long history, and such a village always has one foot in modern times with compelling ghost stories of days gone by constantly trailing in its wake.

Bob Hodum, the building manager of the Port Jefferson Village Center, annually takes willing participants on a ghost tour of the village to peer into its haunted past. Back in the days when Port Jeff was known as Drowned Meadow, a port settlement with a thriving shipbuilding industry and only a few shops to its name, spirits made their way into the woodwork of these lasting structures, according to Hodum. In the 19th century there was no Main Street as it’s known today, and instead East Main Street was considered the real commercial district.

BiblioFlames and Breathe Inspiring Gifts are among the places in Port Jefferson Village cited by Village Center building manager Bob Hodum as hotbeds for paranormal activity. Photo by Kyle Barr

All along East Main Street, stories abound about a haunted past. Jena Turner, the owner of Breathe Inspiring Gifts, which sells a number of spiritual items — such as crystals, minerals, tarot cards, incense and oils — said she has sensed a number of spirits who live in her store. One she and her friends named George or The Captain and another they named Charles. Another apparition once came into the store just a few months after Turner moved in 2009, a Mae West-looking woman they dubbed The Madam, she said.

“The day I came to look at the building I sensed it right away,” Turner said. “One day I felt like I was pushed, and I broke a mirror. Another day I was in a store with a customer, it sounded like somebody was trying to get out of the bathroom. The mirror came off the wall and landed on the floor. … There’s an office door next to cash register which opens at random times and freaks people out.”

During the 1930s, the space that Turner occupies was a bar, Hodum said, which gained the gruesome name The Bucket of Blood because of the number of fights started by sailors and shipwrights. Hodum added legends say the local village doctor was a regular attendant to those hurt in fights at The Bucket of Blood, and those who survived his treatment were offered a free drink.

“The place was a real dive — men fought all the time in it, and knives were their weapon of choice,” Hodum said.

The house across the street from Breathe was owned by a man named Capt. George Washington Brewster, a well-known mariner of the mid-19th century, Hodum said. Turner suspected his spirit must be the one making an appearance, perhaps among others who once visited the saloon. Despite the spirits being hosted in the building, she said she feels the ghosts aren’t malicious, and they add a little bit to the atmosphere of her shop.

Many other buildings on East Main Street belong to the late-19th and early 20th centuries. In the shop now occupied by BiblioFlames, a book-inspired candle shop on East Main Street, Hodum told another story of Lee Jong, an amiable laundryman and Chinese immigrant to Port Jefferson. Jong was known as a model citizen, and often gave refuge to people down on their luck. That is how he came into contact with John Rys, who was given space by Jong after the young man found himself homeless. Rys later went on a robbing spree, which Jong found out about and subsequently told the police. As Rys was being led away, he vowed revenge on his benefactor.

“One day I felt like I was pushed, and I broke a mirror. Another day I was in a store with a customer, it sounded like somebody was trying to get out of the bathroom. The mirror came off the wall and landed on the floor.”

— Jena Turner

The robber got his revenge in 1922 by murdering Jong in his own shop, according to Hodum. The crime was witnessed by a woman in the shop next door, and he was sentenced to death at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining. Both Rys and his accomplice John Emieleta were put to death in 1925 via the electric chair, gravely given the sobriquet “sparky.”

Sometimes Hodum said people can still hear Jong in his shop, continuing his lifelong profession by ironing shirts.

Hodum told another story of a lurid murder spree by Henry Walters of his wife Elizabeth Darling-Walters and her son-in-law over the family’s inheritance in 1857. The tragedy took place near the site of the Port Jefferson Power Station. Emmet Darling, the youngest member of the household, survived and managed to escape. Knowing that he would most likely be caught, Walters hung himself, according to Hodum. If you listen on a cold November day, some locals still say they hear the murderer’s voice.

“In November, when the murder took place, in the evening you can actually hear Walters moaning, where he’s crying about the fact that he would be discovered, and how sorry he was for it,” the building manager said.

Hodum hosted ghost tours to help promote the Port Jefferson Conservancy and the Village Center’s Haunted Mansion night Saturday, Oct. 27. The night will included fun and scares for all ages, mad scientists, ghosts, spooky fortune tellers and more. 

The funds raised by the event will go toward supporting the conservancy.

Jeremy Williams. Photo from Williams

At 22 years old, Republican candidate for New York State’s 10th Assembly District Jeremy Williams said he sees things from the millennial generation’s perspective, especially the issue of young people finding jobs and housing to stay on Long Island.

“I saw a lot of my friends move out of state,” Williams said. “They went down to the Carolinas, to Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and when you ask them why — it’s not that they don’t like New York, or they don’t like their family — it’s a simple matter of there’s better jobs.”

Williams grew up in Huntington Station, his family longtime town residents, and now he currently lives just a block away from the house his great-great-grandparents built. He went through the South Huntington school district and graduated from Walt Whitman High School in 2014. After that he worked part time jobs before attending Stony Brook University and transferring to Binghamton University. While finishing his English rhetoric degree, Williams joined up with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter where he became the organization’s treasurer.

They went down to the Carolinas, to Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and when you ask them why — it’s not that they don’t like New York, or they don’t like their family — it’s a simple matter of there’s better jobs.”

— Jeremy Williams

After returning home from college, Williams got a job in New York City working as a public relations representative for financial technology, cryptocurrency and blockchain companies. One thing he quickly realized from working in the city while living in Huntington was just how hard it was to save money and find a house to live on his own.

“When you’re not saving for the first down payment on your house, when you’re just worried about being able to fill up your car, it’s kind of an unworkable situation,” Williams said. “It’s very expensive to buy a first home, and there are a lot of barriers to first home ownership on Long Island.”

Williams said he has long been interested in politics, and in his adult life he has become involved in local Republican Party politics. He said he has worked on campaigns for several Suffolk County Legislature and state Assembly races. Now he is challenging Assemblyman Steve Stern’s (D-Dix Hills) seat. Stern won the seat in a special election earlier this year after it was vacated by now Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R).

The young candidate said the problems that his district, and by extension all of Long Island, faces are a combination of high tax rates, “outrageous” county fees, an unfriendly business climate and environmental issues, especially those in coastal waters.

Williams blamed the state of Suffolk County’s current finances on excessive spending and that county officials have been upping fees to make up for excessive spending. He specifically pointed to fees for filing mortgage tax ID maps and the red light camera program, which he argued has not been doing the job of making intersections safer.

“With every $3 we send to the state, we get $1 back,” Williams said. “It’s not an act of the universe that it’s becoming more unaffordable for people to live here. It’s regulation and legislation.”

On the environment, he said current issues with nitrogen pollution and recent algal blooms in Huntington and Northport harbors have him worried for the future of local waters.

It’s not an act of the universe that it’s becoming more unaffordable for people to live here. It’s regulation and legislation.”

— Jeremy Williams

“We have really beautiful waterways, and the sheer life in the harbors is staggering,” he said. “Waste leakage dumping is killing our [shellfish and other marine life] en masse.”

While he said he would support harsher punishments for anybody found dumping waste, and for increased funding for household nitrogen filtering technology, he said he is hesitant to support sewer projects if that means more overdevelopment. He said he vehemently opposed the recent Villadom mall project, which once planned to build a large-scale mall complex in Elwood but has since been stalled by local opposition. He said he fears such developments could drastically impact local water, especially that from the Greenlawn Water District.

Williams said he is very concerned about the legal battle between Long Island Power Authority and the Town of Huntington. The town is currently in the midst of ongoing litigation with LIPA over the property tax assessment of Northport Power Station, as the utility claims it has been overtaxed. LIPA is seeking a massive reduction of its property taxes, which could lead to lost revenue for the town and expose it to back taxes should the battle go LIPA’s way. Recent judicial rulings have allowed LIPA to go ahead and take the town to court over these assessments.

“We have to be prepared for the worst,” he said. “We need to have legislation that provides 15 years of relief so that it won’t come down on the taxpayers.”

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Contractors volunteer time, supplies needed renovate Nesconset Plaza shopping center storefront

Veteran Henry Stolberg, far left, greet others inside Paws of War’s new Nesconset location. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nesconset nonprofit Paws of War is busy wagging their tails, happy to have a brand-new dog house.

With the aid of local contractors, the nonprofit organization, which supplies and helps train service dogs for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental illness, has now moved to a new location that features more space for dog training and new room for grooming.

Robert Misseri, president of Paws of War, said when they opened the old space a year ago it quickly became apparent the size of the location was simply not enough to cover how many retired service members were coming to them for help.

“There was an explosion of needs — with constant referrals by [Veterans Affairs], and we realized we needed to expand and expand quick,” Misseri said.

There was an explosion of needs — with constant referrals by [Veterans Affairs], and we realized we needed to expand and expand quick.”

— Robert Misseri

Paws of War is now at a location just a few stores down in the Nesconset Plaza shopping center from their previous storefront, but the space is double that of what they previously had. It includes twice the floor space for dog training as well as a backroom area that Misseri said is planned to be used for dog grooming and care.

Henry Stolberg, a marine veteran and volunteer for Paws of War, said that since getting his dog, a black Labrador named Rocky, life has become so much easier to bear. Rocky was trained in a partnership with Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank that allowed a veteran inmate named Jermaine to help train the dog for Stolberg.

“Now he goes everywhere with me,” Stolberg said. “Rocky can break me out of nightmares at night, if I have anxiety attacks, he will put his pressure on me, and when I get angry, he will pick up on it and he’ll alert me that I have to calm down.”

When Paws of War originally announced their intent to move into a new space, Misseri worried about finding a way to furnish and remodel what had once been a Dollar Store, where the carpet and walls were worn down with misuse and age. Luckily Ed Rollins, the owner of NDA Kitchens, a local Nesconset contractor, along with a number of subcontractors, all stepped up to help supply all the labor and materials completely free for the nonprofit.

“They showed me the space and it was disgusting … [Misseri] was telling me what they need, walking around in circles, and I turned to him and said ‘Rob, I got this,’” Rollins said. “Everybody, all the subcontractors, said the same thing I did: ‘dogs and veterans? I’m in.’”

Line shows the route of new sidewalks in Stony Brook village, which will travel west off of Shore Road, north of the traffic circle and curl around to connect to the edge of Stony Brook Yacht Club’s pier. Image from The Ward Melville Heritage Organization

St. James and Stony Brook will be giving their downtowns a small face-lift thanks to a recent Suffolk County grant.

The two projects, one for the St. James business district along Lake Avenue and the other near the harbor front of Stony Brook village, were part of 11 recipients of a $500,000 county pool to partially fund downtown capital projects. Seven other municipalities who applied did not receive any grant funds.

“As we move full steam ahead with our economic development agenda, we will continue to make quality investments to create the robust, vibrant downtowns that make Suffolk County the ideal place to work, live and raise a family.”

— Steve Bellone

“Our downtowns are essential to keeping our region competitive and attracting the high skill, high knowledge workers we need to grow our local economy,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said. “As we move full steam ahead with our economic development agenda, we will continue to make quality investments to create the robust, vibrant downtowns that make Suffolk County the ideal place to work, live and raise a family.”

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization secured a $20,400 grant that should facilitate new sidewalks in Stony Brook village, which look to travel west off of Shore Road, north of the traffic circle and curl around to connect to the edge of the pier of the Stony Brook Yacht Club.

Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, said the funds will help complete the “harbor walk” project started several years ago. The original plans were to create sidewalks and streetlights with decorative plaques starting at The Long Island Museum continuing down to the harbor. She added that this new sidewalk, which travels down to the water’s edge, should go a long way toward making the area a more walkable destination.

“This is a highly used area for walkers and runners and people watching the sunsets,” Rocchio said. “Now the path is worn. This concrete sidewalk will make it a defined area for all to walk or run on by the harbor.”

The Community Association of Greater St. James received by far the largest amount of revitalization funds equaling more than $60,000. The funds will be used for the installation of crosswalks along Lake Avenue between Moriches Road and Woodlawn Avenue. This will also include 22 new pedestrian-activated LED crossing beacons at 10 separate crosswalks. Locals have long complained about speeding along oft-congested Lake Avenue and the safety of pedestrian trying to cross the road.

“As much as it will be pleasing to the eye, it will be safe for our kids and people to be using these crosswalks.”

— Kerry Maher-Weisse

“Even though this is going to be great for the look of the area, we still need everyone’s cooperation to take control and know what’s around them,” association president Kerry Maher-Weisse said. “As much as it will be pleasing to the eye, it will be safe for our kids and people to be using these crosswalks.”

The grant funds will also go toward new gateway signage at the entrance to Lake Avenue along Moriches Road along more discernable and stylized street signage, which Maher-Weisse said should have a homely, rustic “Nantucket” kind of feel.

The association president said she expects the funds to cover the construction, but if it doesn’t, she said her association could work with the town to help find additional funds. Both Maher-Weisse and Rocchio expect construction to begin shortly after they receive the grant funds.

Plans for the revitalization of Lake Avenue have continued for more than a year, which includes road reconstruction and new amenities like new sidewalks and $2.9 million in bond funds to replace water mains. The Town of Smithtown has recently had an appraisal done of the Irish Viking pub along Lake Avenue to hopefully turn it into more municipal parking. Also, in the pipeline are plans for dry sewer mains and pump station around the Lake Avenue business district, which could cost the town approximately $7 to $10 million. Revitalization plans were originally slated for May 2018 but were pushed back a year to coincide with these sewer projects.

Mount Sinai’s administration and board — including Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and BOE President Robert Sweeney — will ask taxpayers to weigh in on a capital bond proposal Dec. 11. File photo by Erika Karp

The Mount Sinai School District board of education has announced a $25 million price tag for its upcoming capital bond proposal, which would make major repairs to school roofs as well as add new teaching spaces.

At its Oct. 11 meeting Mount Sinai’s board voted to move ahead with the $25,331,498 bond proposal and set a date for a community vote on Dec. 11.

The board showcased the final bond proposal at its Oct. 17 meeting for the community, which proposes an average $240 tax increase on a home assessed at $3,700, or $370 on a home with an assessed value of $5,700.

The bond has changed somewhat since its initial presentation Sept. 26. The sticker price has gone from $24.6 million to $25.3 million and new projects have been added, including upgrades to the boys and girls bathrooms in both the middle and high school. Other additions included creating a girls varsity softball synthetic turf field for $327,750 and a boys varsity baseball synthetic turf infield for $393,300.

The original bond proposal included new additions to the high school orchestra room and a 12,000 square foot fitness center, but those were not included in the final proposal. The September proposal also included a new music lab, but board President Robert Sweeney said the school did not have the space for it, and that additions to the bond were made based on student enrollment, which is expected to decrease in the next several years.

“In four years, there will be 200 less kids in the high school than we’ve ever had,” Sweeney said. “This [bond] is driven by student need and it’s student centered.”

The bond would also fund additional security improvements, including adding security cameras to all school buildings as well as replacing exterior doors and adding non-ballistic security film to windows.

In terms of repairs, the bond would use $2.1 million to complete 54,000 square feet of roofing replacement for the high school, and would also fund projects to repave the high school’s main parking lot, replace flooring in the middle school and replace the public address and master time clock system in all school buildings.

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said the most important inclusions were those that repaired some of the campus’ aging buildings.

“I think the board did a great job to weigh everything out and keep the community in mind, especially repairing our 40-year-old, 50-year-old, 60-year-old buildings,” Brosdal said.

The bond also includes funds for one synthetic turf multi-purpose field and 1,400 square foot locker room renovations and expansions at the high school.

Sweeney said the board took out multiple items from the original proposal, including repairs to masonry, painting lintels and for the inclusion of natural gas emergency generators for the elementary and middle school because several of those projects can be included in either future capital projects using the district’s unassigned fund balance or with normal district budgets.

“Those items were perfectly fine, but we have money in the budget to do it,” Sweeney said.

Some community members, like Mount Sinai resident Michael McGuire, have questioned the need for a bond if it also leads to tax increases.

“The kids we are investing in cannot afford to live here,” McGuire said.

Voters can weigh in on the referendum Dec. 11. Residents in the school district must be registered in order to vote. Residents can register at the District Office during school hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Dec. 5.

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