Authors Posts by Sara-Megan Walsh

Sara-Megan Walsh

Sara-Megan Walsh
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Hundreds of Commack residents came together to take pride in their community at the first Commack Day celebration in more than 30 years Saturday, Oct. 6, at Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve. 

The event was put together by two childhood friends, Jim Manikas, a Commack resident and local real estate agent, and Commack native Dean Spinato. It featured live musical performance, free food from area businesses, with a variety of vendor booths covering fitness to chocolate. 

“Thank you to everyone who attended and was a part of Commack Day,” read a post-event message on the website. “This event could not have been as successful at it was without your contributions. Your support means the world to us, so thank you.” 

A check of $3,000 from the proceeds of the event was presented as a donation to Commack Fire Department.

An artist rendering of a person looking off a balcony of a future Gateway Plaza apartment. Photo from Renaissance Downtowns

D-Day has come for a series of long abandoned buildings on New York Avenue in Huntington
Station — demolition is about to get underway.

Two of the New York Avenue buildings slated for demolition. Photo from Google Maps

Huntington-based developer G2G Development will begin overseeing of the demolition of existing structures located from 1000 to 1026 New York Avenue in order to make way for the construction of Gateway Plaza, a mixed-use building that will consist of 66 apartments and approximately 16,000-square-feet of retail space. The existing Brother’s Barber Shop is the only shop that will remain as is.

“We’re excited to see another revitalization project begin,” said Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). “This is one more step toward returning Huntington Station to the vibrant downtown area it once was.”

Demolition officially began Oct. 8 with contractors beginning to cut down trees on the property, and will get in full swing later this week, according to Andrea Bonilla, the Huntington Station liaison for the master developer Renaissance Downtowns. Overall, it is anticipated to take a few weeks but the timeline is fluid based on what the weather permits.

Bonilla said that G2G Development recently received their final set of building permits for construction on the site. If all goes according to plans, the grounds should be cleared to begin construction of Gateway by mid-November.

“One of the things we have to really hope for is that there’s no major freeze or snow beforehand,” Bonilla said. “If that happens, then setting the foundation would be more difficult.”

“This is one more step toward returning Huntington Station to the vibrant downtown area it once was.”

— Chad Lupinacci

G2G Development has not yet selected contractors and subcontractors who will work with them to vertically build out Gateway Plaza, according to Bonilla, but many of those contracts are currently accepting bids.

Renaissance Downtowns was originally hoping to break ground on Gateway Plaza in 2016 but hit several snags and delays. In September 2015, the plans passed environmental review by Huntington Town Board. However, all four sites involved had to be acquired from different owners, requiring extensive negotiations.

A crucial piece of the puzzle fell into place when Huntington town council voted 4-1 to transfer town-owned property of 1000 New York Ave. to the developer in April 2018. Councilman Ed Smyth (R) was the sole vote against, stating that giving the land away for free was “unconscionable.”

Shortly after the land transfer, the developer submitted a request to the town seeking to change the composition of the apartments to include 11 two-bedroom units not written into the original plans. Due to public backlash voiced by the Huntington Station community and Huntington town board, the request was eventually withdrawn.

A Northport-East Northport Community Theater member has been arrested for allegedly masturbating in front of a 15-year-old girl.

Northport police arrested Robert Miller, 35, on charges of first-degree public lewdness and endangering the welfare of a child Oct. 5 at approximately 8:15 p.m., according to police. Miller’s arrest took place during a rehearsal of the Northport-East Northport Community Theater group at the William J. Brosnan Administrative Building of the Northport school district.

Robert Miller. Photo from Northport Police Department

Northport police said Miller, a technical director with the theater group, requested a teenage girl accompany him outside to the parking lot to check on a motor issue with his car.

Once outside, Miller instructed the teen to sit in the car and rev the engine while he looked
under the hood. The girl said she was instructed to take off her socks and shoes, so she could “feel the vibration of the gas pedal” and did so, according to police. Police said the girl said she noticed Miller standing behind her, outside the driver’s side door with his pants unzipped, hand down his pants and was allegedly masturbating. The theater director allegedly told the teenager to look forward and watch the car’s dashboard gauges. Police said the girl reported she looked at Miller again and he was still allegedly masturbating.

Robert Banzer, superintendent of the Northport-East Northport school district, sent a letter out to residents Oct. 6 regarding the incident, which occurred on school grounds.

“The Northport police department notified the district of an alleged inappropriate action that took place on school district property, Friday night after school hours,” Banzer wrote, noting the theater group is not affiliated with the school district. “The district will continue to cooperate with police in their investigation to the fullest extent possible.”

The superintendent noted the schools would also make support services available for students Tuesday, after the Columbus Day break.

Smithtown school district Superintendent James Grossane also sent a letter out to district parents to address Miller’s arrest, as he has worked in that district for 14 years.

“[D]uring the teacher’s 14 years working within the district there have been no incidents reported,” Grossane wrote. “The teacher has been placed on administrative leave, effective immediately, and we will continue to assist in the police investigation as needed.”

The Smithtown superintendent said a math teacher would immediately be placed in Miller’s classrooms Tuesday in order to ensure “no disruption to the academic process” and support services would also be made available to students.

The theater group declined to comment on Miller’s arrest.

Northport police said they have reason to believe there may be other people subjected to allegedly lewd behavior by Miller. Anyone who feels they were a victim of Miller in the Northport area is asked to contact Detective Peter Hayes or Detective Peter Howard at 631-261-7500.

Any individual who believes they are a victim of Miller in the Smithtown area is encouraged to contact Suffolk County Police Department’s 4th Precinct detective squad at 631-854-8452.

From left, Northport Village Mayor Damon McMullen; Deputy Mayor Tom Kehoe; state sennators Carl Marcellino and John Flanagan; village trustees Mercy Smith and Jerry Maline; and state Assemblyman Andrew Raia outside Northport Village Hall. Photo from Sen. John Flanagan's office

Northport village trustees and state elected officials came together to announce $3 million in state funding has been secured to extend sewer access to the village’s waterfront after a summer of record algal blooms.

New York State senators John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) visited Northport at the end of September to announce the funding would help pay to extend sewers to 140 homes and two business districts in the Steers Pit and Bluff Point communities.

This Northport project will safeguard our water and expand needed access to an updated sewer system.”

— Carl Marcellino

“It is critical that we make serious financial investments in our aging infrastructure all across Long Island,” Marcellino said. “This Northport project will safeguard our water and expand needed access to an updated sewer system.”

Northport trustee Ian Milligan, commissioner of the village’s wastewater treatment plant, said the $3 million helps cover the remaining $8 million price tag of the project, as the village previously received $5 million through the New York State Clean Water Act. This has allowed village officials to move forward with putting Phase I of the project out to contractors for bids last week.

Milligan said Phase I will consist of sewering Bluff Point Road, Duffy Court and Duffy Road in addition to upgrading the pump station that services the Steer Pits condominiums. He said the village hopes to award the bid to a contractor by the end of October, with work to be started mid-fall if the weather holds.

The second phase of extending access to the village’s wastewater treatment plant will bring sewage mains to the remainder of the Steers Pits community, according to Milligan.

“The houses are very close to the water and what they were left on is gravel, like a bed of gravel, so it drains fairly quickly,” he said. “Our septic systems are draining into the bay in a matter of months, where most systems it takes years to get into the water. It’s definitely contributing to nitrogen and possibly pathogens in the harbor.”

This summer, Northport Harbor suffered a bloom of Dinophysis, a type of algae that releases a powerful neurotoxin that can affect shellfish. Both Northport and Huntington harbors showed a rash of paralytic shellfish poisoning in other marine life from eating shellfish.

“This is the last of the waterfront in the village to be sewered,” Milligan said. “We believe it will make a big difference in the water quality in Northport and Huntington harbors.”

The village board hopes to be able to put out a request for proposals to contractors to bid on Phase II early next year.

“We believe it will make a big difference in the water quality in Northport and
Huntington harbors.”

— Ian Milligan

Northport homeowners in these areas will have to take on some of the burden to connect their houses to the sewer district, according to Milligan. The village has received estimates of approximately $10,000 per house to connect, but the trustee warned the final cost can vary greatly based on individual homeowner’s situations.

Northport village trustees are working with Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) to see if a county program that helps homeowners get funds to install upgraded, modern cesspools can be tapped to help offset costs of connecting to the new sewage mains.

“We haven’t heard an answer yet, but we feel it’s close and we are hopeful,” Milligan said. “No guarantee though.”

A public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 at the American Legion Hall, located at 7 Woodside Ave., to further discuss details for home and business owners regarding anticipated road closures during upcoming construction and connection costs.

“I believe in the long run that [homeowners] will be better off,” Milligan said. “For certain, the general public will be better off with the benefit of cleaner water.”

Smithtown Town Hall. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A change of leadership at Smithtown Town Hall has resulted in a proposed 2019 budget that could increase homeowners town taxes for the first time in three years.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) presented his $109 million tentative budget for 2019 to the town council in a short meeting Oct. 5, on deadline under New York State Law. The proposed budget represents an increase of $4 million more than this year’s budget, with $1.5 million additional in the taxes levied among Smithtown’s homeowners. The supervisor promised it will be used to the benefit of its residents.

“We’ve committed in this administration to invest in Smithtown,” Wehrheim said. “We are going to do just that. I looked at the operating budget and we’ve stayed within the 2 percent mandated state tax cap.”

If approved, the 2019 tentative operating budget will be a total $66.60 annual increase for the average Smithtown homeowner, according to Wehrheim, with $28 of that increase attributable to a rise in solid waste district fees.

This graph shows the Town of Smithtown’s 2018 salaries for three positions — town supervisor, town council member and supervisor of highways — with their proposed 2019 salary increases and how that relates to similar positions’ pay in the neighboring townships of Brookhaven and Huntington. Graphic by David Ackerman

The town’s singular largest driving cost behind the proposed budget was a $1.1 million increase to health care insurance contributions for its full-time union employees, according to the supervisor. He also expects operational expenses such as fuel and utility costs to continue to grow over the year ahead.

The tentative budget sets aside $5.5 million for road, curb and sidewalk improvements, which Wehrheim said he decided in conjunction with Superintendent of Highways Robert Murphy (R).

The town supervisor has also proposed an approximately 40 percent increase to the Community Development Fund, which he said is used to help fund a list of neighborhood projects to improve local look and character of the neighborhoods. Most of the town’s funds will be used to kick-start projects, according to the supervisor, before hopefully being reimbursed through a combination of state aid or other grants.

Wehrheim is looking to increase the salary of each town council member by more than $9,000; from $65,818 up to $75,000. This represents a year-to-year increase of about 14 percent.

“I feel that it is in line with surrounding neighboring municipalities,” he said. “I feel the council position deserves that salary. It’s a different administration and they have far more responsibilities than they did previously.”

By comparison, each Town of Brookhaven council member is poised to make $72,316 in 2019 while to the west, the proposed annual salary for Huntington town council members is $76,841 next year.

In Smithtown, Wehrheim has proposed $30,000 for a new government liaison position, which if approved, will become an additional title and responsibilities for one of the town board members. The supervisor said the individual appointed will take on responsibilities similar to a deputy supervisor or chief of staff.

“It’s a more economical way as opposed to additional full-time staff in the supervisor’s office,” he said.

Murphy also stands to get an additional $20,000 a year, increasing the highway supervisor’s salary from $110,000 up to $130,000 per year, if the proposed budget is approved. Wehrheim said the 18 percent hike is warranted and has been talked about for several years.

“[Highway] is the town’s largest department,” Wehrheim said.

In perspective, Murphy’s new salary would be more than Brookhaven’s highway superintendent, poised to earn $119,132 in 2019 but less than Huntington’s $140,000 salary per year.

Wehrheim said that while he has added a few new positions to his administration in 2018, including a public information officer, he is hoping to hire two additional laborers each for the Highway Department and Parks, Buildings & Grounds Department next year. The exact salary for these positions has yet to be determined, according to the supervisor, as the town is in the midst of negotiating new contracts with both the Civil Service Employees Union, representing the municipality’s employees, and the Smithtown Administrators Guild, which represents its departmental directors. The previous contracts expired Dec. 31, 2017.

“Any increase would be result of union negotiations,” Wehrheim said.

The supervisor has also put forth a proposed $10 million capital budget for 2019, presented at the same time as the operating budget. He said $8 million of that budget will be borrowed by the town, and allocated toward large projects such as $2.3 million for new water mains along St. James Lake Avenue business district and $2 million in 2019 toward renovation of Flynn Memorial Park.

The Newfield Wolverines hosted the Huntington Blue Devils Oct. 5 and went on to a 41-14 win. Both teams are 2-3 in the league.

On Oct. 13, the Wolverines will have an away game and challenge Copiague, and the Blue Devils will travel to Northport.

Hundreds gathered in Huntington to put on a proud display of their Italian heritage at the 20th annual Long Island Columbus Day Parade Oct. 7. The event, hosted by the Town of Huntington and Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, aims to celebrate Italian heritage, culture and their contributions to society.

Hundreds of New York members of the Order of Sons and Daughters of Italy in America marched along the parade route from the Old Village Green west on Main Street to the Christopher Columbus statue, at the intersection of West Neck Road, in honor of the organization’s 113th anniversary.

This year’s parade marshals were: Robert Ferrito, president of the New York OSDIA, Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R); Antoinette Biordi, an anchorwoman for News 12; and Vito DeSimone, an Italian media personality.

 

Thousands of Long Islanders traveled to Huntington this weekend to enjoy the 25th annual LI Fall Festival at Heckscher Park. The event, presented by Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, brings together four stages featuring live entertainment with carnival rides,  games, a food courts, a wine and beer garden, petting zoos and more.

The festival runs through 5 p.m. Monday. Click through the photos above to see if TBR News Media caught you having fun. Take your own selfie or photos of the fair? Email them to sara@tbrnewsmedia.com to join our gallery. 

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Kings Park Kingsmen varsity football dominated the field against West Babylon Eagles in a 30-0 shutout homecoming victory Oct. 6.

Quarterback Kevin Decker led his team to victory by throwing for 125 yards and one touchdown.  Senior tailback Vince D’Alto also played well with 12 carries for a total of 101 yards in the shutout.

The win brings the Kingsmen up in the Division III rankings to 3-1 for the 2018 season. Kings Park  will travel to take on Hauppauge Oct. 13 at 6 p.m.

Click through the gallery above to see photos of the shutout homecoming victory. 

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The Obadiah Smith House. File photo

Two organizations in the Town of Smithtown have been selected to receive more than $13,000 in grants to plan for future preservation of two local landmarks.

The Preservation League of New York State, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve historic structures across the state, announced Oct. 3 it has awarded funds to both Commack Union Free School District and the Smithtown Historical Society.

Commack school district received a $7,620 grant to hire a consultant to perform a full building report on the Marion Carll farmhouse, which was given to the district in 1969 for historic and educational purposes.

“It’s really quite extraordinary,” said Erin Tobin, vice president for policy and preservation at the Preservation League.

This is such an incredible time capsule that has tremendous educational potential.”

— Erin Tobin

The Marion Carll Farm is a historic location of potential statewide significance, according to  Tobin, as the nine-acre property located on Jericho Turnpike consists of an 1860s farmhouse and several outlying buildings and retains many of the objects and possessions of its original owners, the Carll family of Commack.

“It’s a very intact site,” she said. “So many historic buildings on Long Island have been over restored and lost their original material and integrity of the historic building, the plaster, the wall paper and such. This is such an incredible time capsule that has tremendous educational potential.”

Huntington-based Steward Preservation Services, run by architect Joel Snodgrass, has been hired to evaluate the farmhouse and create a plan for the building’s preservation tasked with compiling a list of recommended steps. Tobin said she is aware of some issues in the farmhouse’s kitchen as well as some necessary roof repairs, but the report may uncover additional problems. The report will be done in compliance with standards set by the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“There’s a lot of opportunity out there for partnerships,” Tobin said. “It will be interesting to see what the school district moves ahead with. This report might help inform what they want to do next.”

The Smithtown Historical Society also received a $5,800 grant in order to conduct a building report on the Obadiah Smith House on St. Johnland Road in Smithtown. Priya Kapoor, executive director of the Smithtown Historical Society, said she’s thrilled to have been selected to receive the funds.

“[The Obadiah Smith House is] a treasure we want to preserve and, at this point, it needs a lot of attention and a lot of care.”

— Priya Kapoor

“It’s a treasure we want to preserve and, at this point, it needs a lot of attention and a lot of care,” Kapoor said.

The Obadiah Smith House is the first historic home the Smithtown Historical Society ever occupied, according to the executive director, but now finds itself in need of some tender loving care. The building dates back to approximately 1700 and was owned by the grandson of the town’s founder Richard Smith.

“The Obadiah Smith House is one of the earliest houses on Long Island,” Tobin said. “It’s a great example of early English and Dutch building traditions.”

Kapoor said the historical society will also have Steward Preservation Services do a full report on the building’s condition to ensure it is up to code and safe. Once the report is complete, the organization will apply for additional grants and funding to make the repairs. The long-term goal is to be able to open up the Obadiah Smith House to be toured by area students learning about local history, according to Kapoor.

The Smithtown Historical Society is in the process of fixing up and reopening the Franklin O. Arthur Farmhouse’s animal barn to the public in the spring of 2019. Kapoor said she hopes to have space to add more programs and allow people to see firsthand the historic farming techniques used.

“I’m really excited about where the society is going right now with this new direction,” she said. “We’re also excited for each member of the community who is helping us.”

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