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Sara-Megan Walsh

Sara-Megan Walsh
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Downtown Kings Park. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Town of Smithtown officials are one concrete step closer to paving the way for municipal parking in Kings Park’s downtown business district.

The town board voted unanimously Aug. 14 to enter a contract of sale to purchase two vacant lots off Pulaski Road for a price of $280,0000. If all goes smoothly, the purchase may fulfill the five-year wish of area residents who petitioned the town to buy the property in November 2013.

“We’re very pleased, we are going into contract,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “It will be a huge advantage to the business community there.”

Originally, the town had scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 14 on whether it should pursue the process of eminent domain to take ownership of the two lots owned by Queens residents Matthew and Marguerite Lupoli.

It will be a huge advantage to the business community there.”

— Ed Wehrheim

“It was a little bit of a tussle with the property owner who resides in Queens, but he’s willing to sell it,” the supervisor said.

A June 4 real estate appraisal of the two adjacent wooded lots determined the fair market price to be approximately $270,000 for the roughly 12,800 square feet, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. The town’s first purchase offer on the property was rejected by the owners, according to Wehrheim, but the second offer of $280,000 was accepted.

The supervisor said he is hopeful that the funds necessary to purchase the land will come from Suffolk County’s coffers, citing lengthy conversations with Suffolk  County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The measure will have to be  approved by the county Legislature.

“It looks positive,” Wehrheim said.

Smithtown town officials have been eyeing these wooded lots for municipal parking dating back to 2013.

A petition started by Park Bake Shop owners, Lucy and Gabe Shtanko, in 2013 received more than 600 signatures from Kings Park residents asking town officials to purchase the lot for municipal parking. Wehrheim said a 2014 appraisal determined its fair market price at $230,000, but Matthew Lupoli wasn’t interested in selling at that time.

It was a little bit of a tussle with the property owner who resides in Queens, but he’s willing to sell it.”

– Ed Wehrheim

There is a town municipal parking lot across the street from the Kings Park Fire Department on Main Street, next to the Kings Park branch of The Smithtown Public Library.

The western portion of Main Street — dubbed Restaurant Row — is the one area that could possibly use more municipal parking, according to the results of a 2018 market analysis study of downtown Kings Park presented by Larisa Ortiz, urban planner and principal of Larisa Ortiz Associates, to the town board Jan. 25.

“The municipal lots are inconvenient for restaurants,” reads the 62-page report.

The Restaurant Row area, which includes several eateries such as Cafe Red and Relish, averages 4.7 parking spots per 1,000 square feet of retail space. This is less than the two other areas of Main Street — known as the “civic heart,” near the Kings Park library and Long Island Rail Road station, and “car-centric retail,” which is centered around Tanzi Plaza and the Kings Park Plaza shopping center.

Ortiz’s other suggestions for improving the current parking situation in the Kings Park downtown area included restriping several existing lots — such as Relish’s — to accommodate more spaces and increase their efficiency.

In addition to Kings Park, Wehrheim said the town board has received a real estate appraisal of the Irish Viking pub in St. James and remains interested in purchasing it to create off-street parking for the Lake Avenue business district.

The Northport power plant. File photo

Long Island Power Authority has won the latest battle against the Town of Huntington in the lengthy legal war over Northport Power Station’s value.

New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division has reinstated LIPA’s right to pursue a lawsuit against the Town of Huntington regarding the amount of taxes levied against the Northport power plant, reversing a September 2015 decision made by a lower court. A panel of judges ruled Aug. 8 LIPA does have legal standing to be a plaintiff in the 2010 lawsuit it filed jointly with National Grid.

“We believe the appellate court’s decision is correct.”

— Sid Nathan

“We believe the appellate court’s decision is correct,” LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan said. “We remain committed to reaching a fair settlement for both the local communities and our 1.1 million customers to put an unsustainable tax situation back on a sustainable path.”

In September 2015, state Supreme Court Justice John Bivona issued a decision dismissing LIPA’s standing as an initiating plaintiff in the tax certiorari case, since National Grid — and not LIPA — is the owner of the plant. Bivona had written that while LIPA believed its financial interests are adversely impacted by a wrongly overstated assessment of the power plant, “the result is still remote and consequential and certainly does not constitute a direct loss because the property taxes levied upon the Northport Power Station are actually and directly paid by National Grid Generation LLC.”

LIPA filed an appeal of Bivona’s decision in 2015. The utility has asserted while National Grid does own the power plant, the station is under contract with LIPA. Under the contract, LIPA is required to pay all costs to run the power plant — including the $80 million in annual property taxes to the Town of Huntington — and provide necessary fuel, for which in return it receives all electricity generated for its customers.

The utility company claims that its costs to operate the Northport Power Station including the taxes on it exceed the total revenue, resulting in LIPA referring to it as a “significant burden to LIPA’s customers.”

We’re reviewing the order from the appellate division and we’re considering an appeal.”

— Nicholas Ciappetta

With LIPA’s legal status reinstated as a party of interest on the tax certiorari case, the issue of the property tax-assessed value of the power plant could proceed to trial.

However, Huntington Town Attorney Nicholas Ciappetta has said he plans to carefully review the appellate court’s decision.

“We believe this has been wrongly decisioned,” Ciappetta said in a statement. “We’re reviewing the order from the appellate division and we’re considering an appeal.”

This latest legal decision comes less than a month after Huntington voted July 17 to hire a neutral third-party mediator, Marty Scheinman, in an attempt to reach a resolution with LIPA, National Grid and Northport-East Northport school district. The town agreed to pay Scheinman $1,150 an hour in addition to covering all out-of-pocket expenses, such as transportation and a one-time administrative fee, the total bill will be split among all parties in the mediation. 

Mediation has not yet started, but the first session is slated for Sept. 26, according to Chiappetta.

Update: Additional information was added to further clarify that the town will be splitting the costs of the third-party mediator. 

A conceptual rendering of the approved site plans for TDG Commack on Jericho Turnpike. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Planning Department

Town of Smithtown officials gave their seal of approval to two developers to construct a total of 160 new apartments between two complexes. 

The town board voted unanimously Aug. 14 to approve site plans for two housing projects: a mixed-use development featuring 62 units at The Lofts at Maple & Main in Smithtown and a 92-unit complex by TDG Commack, LLC to be built on Jericho Turnpike. 

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said he hopes the two projects will help provide much needed housing in the township. 

The Lofts at Maple & Main by East Hampton-based developer VEA 181st Realty Corp. will consist of four buildings on the site of the former Nassau Suffolk Lumber & Supply Company in Smithtown. A mixed-use, three-story building will be constructed facing Main Street consisting of approximately 9,400 square feet of retail space on the ground level divided into two storefronts. The second and third floors will each contain 13 residential units consisting of six one-bedroom apartments and seven two-bedroom apartments per floor. Set back behind the Main Street building, three additional three-story apartment buildings will have 12 apartments each, primarily two-bedroom units. 

“This will be the first opportunity for a young person, a young professional coming out of college that cannot afford to buy a single-family home on a half acre of property, to have an avenue to live in the business district,” Wehrheim said. “It puts them in walkable distance to restaurants, a railroad station and everything they really require.” 

The development will have six affordable workforce housing units constructed and rented out for below-market price, according to town planner Liam Trotta. 

The supervisor said he hopes the apartment complex will help push downtown revitalization.“It will have a positive effect on the local business community as well,” he said. “The people that go into those 62 units will frequent the businesses that are along Main Street.” 

The town board expressed it was “pleased” with the agreements struck with the developer during planning, such as agreeing to permit three-story buildings instead of the four stories initially requested. 

The developer, Salvatore DiCarlo, of VEA 181st could not be reached for comment by press time. Wehrheim said that DiCarlo still needs approval from Suffolk County’s Health Department for the on-site sewer treatment, which may take a few weeks, but construction will begin immediately afterward. 

The second garden apartment complex designed by TDG Commack was approved as  a seven-building apartment complex along Jericho Turnpike, taking over the site of the Courtesy Inn. Each building will have two stories and, when completed, offer a mix of 48 one-bedroom and 44 two-bedroom units. There will be a
community pool for residents. 

Similar to The Lofts at Maple & Main, the Commack housing development has proposed to build a sewer treatment plant into the site to handle all wastewater at the location. However, Trotta said as the developer did not exceed the maximum density for the site, it will not be required to designate units as affordable workplace housing.

Bi-County Auto Shop in Smithtown. Photo from Facebook

A Smithtown auto body shop has been ordered to pay $185,000 in back wages to its employees plus damages for violating federal labor laws regarding overtime pay.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Aug. 14 that it obtained a judgment against Paul Joseph Dill and Paul Jeremy Dill, the two owners of Bi-County Auto Body, ordering them to pay $185,000 in back wages plus an equal amount in damages to 49 employees, plus $30,000 in civil penalties, for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“The employer engaged in an unlawful practice to deny employees the overtime wages they had legally earned and to conceal their failure to pay for those hours,” said Irv Miljoner, Long Island director of U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hours Division. “The resolution of this case demonstrates our commitment to those workers, and to leveling the playing field for employees who play by the rules.

From July 2014 to April 2016, the Smithtown employers violated labor laws by paying its employees in cash for any overtime beyond the 40-hour workweek and paying straight time, according to U.S. Department of Labor. Federal standards mandate that employees be paid one and one-half times their normal rate of pay when working overtime.

In addition, federal investigators said the employers also deducted one hour of pay from employees’ daily hours for a meal break, even though workers often were unable to take an uninterrupted break. Bi-County Auto Shop failed to keep track of time its employees worked beyond 40 per week in an attempt to conceal overtime, according to U.S. Department of Labor, resulting in recordkeeping violations.

“This case shows that the U.S. Department of Labor will take appropriate steps to ensure compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act and to rectify wage violations, so employees are not denied their justly earned pay,” said Jeffrey Rogoff, the department’s regional solicitor of labor.

Under the terms of the court judgment, Bi-County Auto and its owners are prohibited from accepting the return of back wages from its employees and discrimination from any employees who step forward to exercise their rights under federal labor law.

A manager at Bi-County Auto Shop stated that the company has no comment on the judgment issued Tuesday.

Any worker who believes that their employer may be violating minimum wage or overtime laws may report them through U.S. Department of Labor’s PAID program. More information on federal labor laws can be found at www.dol.gov/whd.

School district releases 80-page report alleging disclosure of confidential information, inappropriate actions

Commack School District's board of education at the start of the 2017-18 school year. Photo from Facebook

A Commack schoolboard  trustee has resigned her seat after the district launched a four-month investigation into her actions.

Pamela Verity submitted a letter of resignation to Commack School District effective July 31, which was unanimously accepted at an Aug. 1 special board of education meeting. She had been the subject of a special investigation for allegedly disclosing confidential information privy to her as a board trustee and removing school district property from Marion Carll Farm.

As members of the board of education, we essentially trade in confidential information…”

— Jarrett Behar

“As members of the board of education, we essentially trade in confidential information:  confidential information about our children, confidential information about our employees,”  Jarrett Behar, vice president of Commack’s school board, said. “We cannot get to a point where we decide that the ends justify the means. There are rules in place that need to be followed and we have a duty to follow them.”

On April 24, Commack’s board voted 3-to-2 to hire attorney Jeffery Smith to undertake an independent investigation of Verity based on accusations she had disclosed confidential information on multiple occasions and taken actions that were an inappropriate use of her authority.

The school district released Smith’s 80-page report Aug. 2, following Verity’s resignation, that details his interviews with 10 individuals — all board of education members, Superintendent Donald James and four school employees — between May 2 and 18.

“This investigation was spurred by posting of confidential information on Facebook,” reads page 3 of the report.

“I made mistakes, I definitely made mistakes.”

— Pamela Verity

In his investigation, Smith said it was alleged that Verity disclosed details of a confidential personnel matter regarding harassment in the workplace on social media. The investigator said the content indicated the board member had been emailing about, texting about it and expressed her opinion in violation of both state law and district policies.

Verity said she admitted to having inadvertently made a public Facebook post on the subject while multitasking but denied it contained detailed information such as specific names.

“I made mistakes, I definitely made mistakes,” she said, but denied her actions were intentional or as malicious in intent as she felt was implied.

The report also critically examined conversations Verity had with district employees where alleged confidential information was disclosed or where her actions were considered inappropriate conduct of a trustee, according to the district.

“I wear my board hat all the time, I don’t have any First Amendment rights anymore?” she said. “If it was up to them I would not be allowed to post [on social media], I would not be allowed to support people.”

If some of these actions were genuine mistakes, they would have merited an apology and a commitment that they would not be repeated and that hasn’t happened.”

— Page 19 of investigative report

Verity said as an educational advocate with the Opt Out movement prior to joining the board, she consulted with other school trustees and lawyers for advice on handling situations and how to handle confidential matters. The Commack district, she asserted, has a much stricter definition of what qualifies as confidential information than state law requires or surrounding districts’ policies. 

Commack school officials also said Verity removed documents from Marion Carll Farm without permission. The former board member said she did pack up and take home documents while working on a fundraiser for the site for safekeeping. All were returned to the district, according to Verity. The district admitted to receiving a box of paperwork but says it did not receive a full inventory list of all items removed from the farmhouse as per its request.

“If some of these actions were genuine mistakes, they would have merited an apology and a commitment that they would not be repeated and that hasn’t happened,” Smith wrote on page 19 of the report.

Verity said she doesn’t want to spend her time and energy defending herself from accusations but would rather move forward.

“I thought at first maybe if I speak my truth, this will turn around. It didn’t,” she said. “[The report] doesn’t reflect both sides at all, not at all.”

Community members at the Aug. 1 special meeting questioned how much the four-month investigation had cost the district given the independent investigator was hired at $150 an hour. The total bill was not yet available, according to Behar.

[The report] doesn’t reflect both sides at all, not at all.”

— Pamela Verity

“This procedure and process obviously did come at a cost and we do not take any endeavor where we spend taxpayer money lightly,” he said.

The district has three legal options when it comes to addressing Verity’s seat on the board of education, according to school district attorney Eugene Barnosky. The board’s choices include holding a special election to fill the vacancy within 90 days, appointing an individual to serve or leaving the seat unfilled. Verity was in her second year of a three-year term, due up for re-election in May 2019.

Behar said no decision had been made yet on how best to proceed.

“What happened today is very new,” he said. “We will make a decision, whatever decision we make will be made public. The community is always welcome to give its input.”

Verity said she hopes to continue lobbying for curriculum changes as part of the Opt Out movement against increased state testing and the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Town of Smithtown residents now have a place where they can sit down to remember the life of 6-year-old Paige Keely along with other children who have died too soon.

Three Nesconset residents Danielle Hoering, Bridget Scher and Sasha Worontzoff, members of Tackan Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Association, spearheaded the creation of a memorial to Paige Keely installed at Nesconset gazebo Aug. 2.

Paige Keeley. Photo from St. James Funeral Home

The 6-year-old Paige was first-grader at St. James Elementary who died suddenly of a rare, undetected brain condition called arteriovenous malformation Jan. 8. It’s an abnormal development of blood vessels that connect arteries and veins, which occurs in less than 1 percent of the population, according to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center based in Minnesota.

“I know what it’s like to lose someone,” Worontzoff said. “People end up forgetting after a while or move onto the next big thing and we didn’t want people to.”

The St. James community initially showed its support for Keely’s parents, Tom and Gina, along with her two siblings by tying pink ribbons – Paige’s favorite color – around trees, stop signs and telephone poles in the community. Now, there is a permanent pink ribbon at the Nesconset gazebo.

In memory of Paige and all children who have died, a cherry blossom tree donated by Borella Nursery Wholesale Growers in Nesconset was planted near the gazebo as it will blossom with pink flowers each year. The tree was surrounded by a garden with a stone plaque, and a white bench inscribed a pink ribbon dedicating it “In Memory of Paige Keely.”  The Town of  Smithtown Parks, Building & Grounds Department helped install the memorial.

“We wanted to do it in a public area so that all families could come and enjoy it, not just at a school,” Scher said. “We just wanted a spot where people can sit and reflect or pay respect to Paige and the family.”

The gazebo was selected as the memorial site because several public events like the Nesconset Concert series are hosted at the park, attracting families and community members. Local businesses and those in the community donated money to help fund the project.

“People end up forgetting after a while or move onto the next big thing and we didn’t want people to.”

– Sasha Worontzoff

“We wanted each person and each establishment to have a sense of contribution to this permanent fixture in our community,” Worontzoff said. “We really just wanted Nesconset people to help and be a part of it.”

Worontzoff and Hoering had to get permission from Smithtown’s elected officials in order to build the memorial on town-owned land.

“We were so grateful and appreciative that the parks and rec and Town Hall were so quick and knew our story ahead of time,” Worontzoff said. “It was wonderful.”

She hopes local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops will maintain the memorial and keep it in good condition throughout the years.

This is the second memorial to be constructed in Paige’s memory. Earlier this summer, St. James Elementary School dedicated a butterfly garden on its grounds at the Keely family’s request.

East Northport residents and their families flocked to the East Northport Fireman’s Fair this past weekend.

The East Northport Fire Department kicked off its annual community fair Aug. 1 with a parade. The four-day festival featured rides, carnival games and live music to entertain all ages. Click through the gallery above to see if TBR News Media caught your family having fun. 

File photo

Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating an incident during which a man was found unresponsive in a pool at a Fort Salonga home this weekend.

Police officers responded to Marcelle Court after a 911 caller reported a man was found unresponsive in an in-ground pool Aug. 5 at approximately 1:10 p.m.

Northport Rescue performed CPR on the victim, Edwin Campos, 39, of Copiague. Campos was transported to Huntington Hospital where he was listed in critical condition as of Sunday night.

The investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information to call the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252.

Protesters carried a variety of signs against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies in Huntington Station June 30. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

While the Trump administration has rescinded its policy of separating immigrant children from their parents as they cross the U.S-Mexican border, local groups have continued to protest what they see is a huge miscarriage of justice.

“It was government sanctioned child abuse,” said Dr. Eve Krief, a Huntington pediatrician and founder of the Long Island Inclusive Communities Against Hate advocacy group. “Some kids might not ever see their parents again, and that’s horrendous — its criminal.”

Krief has worked along with fellow advocates Sharon Golden, co-founder of the political action network Together We Will Long Island, and Pilar Moya, co-founder of Latinos Unidos of Long Island, who have been hosting Families Belong Together rallies since the beginning of June to protest the family separations. The second rally was held June 30 as part of a nationwide day of protest. Nearly 50 organizations and close to 1,000 people attended, according to Krief.

From left, Sharon Golden of Together We Will Long Island and Dr. Eve Krief of Long Island Inclusive Communities Against Hate have organized the Huntington area Families Belong Together rallies, pictured above. Photo from Eve Krief

Before the 2016 presidential election, Krief said she was politically aware but had never been much of an activist. After Charlottesville Unite the Right rally that saw neo-Nazis marching in the street and events leading up to the death of a young political activist, she decided to establish her group to protest the Trump administration’s policies.

In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions instituted the zero-tolerance policy that meant any adult that was arrested upon entering the United States would have their child given over to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and be placed with a sponsor. The policy has led to more than 2,300 children being separated from their parents at the border.

A federal judge ruled that the separation was unlawful and gave two dates that the children must be reunited. All children under 5 were to be rejoined with their parents by July 10, and then all other children by July 26. Those dates came and went, and though the federal government claimed it had reunited all separated children, close to 700 were still not reunited with their parents due to some having criminal records and other red flags, or because some have already been deported while their children were still left in the U.S., according to CNN.

“Clearly, people thought that the problem was gone and resolved,” Krief said. “It’s clear that this administration had no plan when they separated them to reunify them.”

The groups will continue to protest. On July 29, the advocacy groups hosted another Families Belong Together rally at the intersection of Jericho Turnpike and Route 110 in Huntington Station. They are advocating for congressional oversight and transparency into the actions of the Trump administration during the period of family separation and for the children who must still be reunited with the parents, that the children receive trauma counseling, that the children and parents not be moved into detention centers and that those who came to the country seeking asylum be given the opportunity to go through the legal asylum process.

Nobody it seems is looking to heal these children. When a child is crying out for their momma, when babies are being taken away, they have no information to give them.

– Shannon Golden

Latinos Unidos Moya said that her nonprofit organization aids Latino immigrants and groups across Long Island and that the rallies that they host go beyond politics.

“I think it is more of a humanitarian crisis,” she said. “Our efforts are in finding common ground among all the parties, Republicans Democrats and Independents.”

Golden, who works as a therapist, said she has seen the traumatizing effects of children being separated from their parents in some of the adults with whom she has worked.

“These effects are life-lasting,” she said. “Nobody it seems is looking to heal these children. When a child is crying out for their momma, when babies are being taken away, they have no information to give them.”

There is no firm estimate about how long it will take the government to fully reunite the children with their parents, or what its policy will be if they are unable to find every parent who had been separated from their child. Meanwhile, Krief and her allies said they plan to continue holding rallies and
protesting. Their only hope is that awareness of the issue does not die.

“We will continue as long as we see there hasn’t been justice,” Krief said.

Youth coalition pushes for ‘wave of orange,’ support for politicians in favor of more regulation this November

More than 600 people gathered together loudly chanting, “Enough is enough,” and calling for measures to help bring an end to gun violence in schools at a Huntington Station park this past weekend.

Members of Students against Gun Violence LI, a student-led coalition calling for stricter gun control measures, were joined by parents, Huntington area residents and community members in a rally July 29 at Breezy Park. This event aimed to build on the momentum gathered in the March 24 marches in response to the February Parkland, Florida, school shooting, encouraging young adults to voice their opinions on gun control issues at the polls this November.

“America just loves its guns more than its people and if that’s not f****d up, I don’t know what is,” said Lucy
Peters tearfully, as the niece of Dix Hills native Scott Beigel, who was killed in the Parkland shooting. “We need to elect ‘orange’ politicians who see gun control for what it is — a human issue and not a political issue.”

We need to elect ‘orange’ politicians who see gun control for what it is — a human issue and not a political issue.”

– Lucy Peters

Orange has been adopted as the color worn and displayed by those protesting stalled gun control measures.

Peters stood alongside relatives of other Parkland shooting victims: Commack resident Paul Guttenberg whose niece, Jaime, a student, was killed, and Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of Scott Beigel, in calling for stricter gun control measures.

“On Feb. 14, 2018, a 19-year-old was not mature or trustworthy enough to handle a beer but was mature and trustworthy enough to handle a weapon of war, an AR-15 assault rifle,” Beigel Schulman said, in questioning gun control laws. “In what world does that make sense?”

The mother of the 35-year-old Parkland shooting victim called out Long Island politicians who have offered their “thoughts and prayers” to victims of mass shootings but have not voted in support of gun control legislation, specifically naming U.S. Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Peter King (R-Seaford). Beige Schulman said in the wake of Scott’s death, she had chosen to make gun control reform her life’s mission and encourages others to take action.

People ask me, ‘What can we do to support you?’ My answer is so simple: Make sure you get out and vote.”

– Linda Beigel Schulman

“People ask me, ‘What can we do to support you?’” she said. “My answer is so simple: Make sure you get out and vote. Then make sure to tell at least two more people to get out and vote.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who co-sponsored the Huntington rally, stressed the importance of high school and college students continuing to voice their opinions on national issues by registering to vote and holding politicians accountable for their viewpoints in the upcoming
midterm elections.

“We need young people to continue to keep a youth movement going in this country to focus on this issue of gun violence,” Suozzi said. “This is a unique time in history. The adults have failed and we need young people to keep this going.”

Huntington resident Owen Toomey, who has been actively involved in March for Our Lives Long Island, stressed that the movement has defined five major legislative goals that it is fighting for. First on that list is universal background checks for gun purchasers.

I accept that my innocence has been eroded by the fear of gun violence, but I refuse to accept that same fate for upcoming generations.”

– Gia Yetikyel

Other goals of the movement include upgrading and digitalizing the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives registry; a ban on the sale of high-capacity gun magazines and semi-automatic assault rifles, and getting Congress to approve funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research and study gun violence.

“When people ask what you are rallying for, tell them our goals,” Toomey said. “Remind them we aren’t banning guns, remind them we aren’t taking their guns, remind them we aren’t taking away their sport or self-defense — we are just making it harder for someone to kill 15 people in the span of six minutes.”

Gia Yetikyel, of New Hyde Park, recalled how terrified she was 17 years old and her high school experienced an incident that required a lockdown. While crouching in the corner of the classroom, she reported sending out text messages to her mother to ask about a younger brother’s safety, sending messages to beloved family and friends all while making a list of goals she had yet to accomplish.

I’ll be telling them the young on Long Island have never rested or stopped fighting for what is right.”

– Avalon Fenster

“I accept that my innocence has been eroded by the fear of gun violence, but I refuse to accept that same fate for upcoming generations,” she said.

Yetikyel said she still suffers effects from that day and, as such, fights for stricter gun control measures.

“We send out condolences to the families of the dead, but I’m still sending them to the living for having to fight this battle that shouldn’t even exist,” she said.

March for Our Lives Long Island co-founder Avalon Fenster, of Dix Hills, announced that she will be taking her pledge to fight for gun control legislation to the national level. She’s been invited to join the “Road to Change” national March for Our Lives Tour as a representative for Long Island alongside Parkland survivors Emma González and David Hogg. The tour stopped in Greensboro, North Carolina, from July 31 to Aug. 2 to rally for gun control while showing active opposition to the National Rifle Association.

“I’ll be telling them the young on Long Island have never rested or stopped fighting for what is right,” Fenster promised those gathered. “We will resist. We will register, and we will bring justice.”

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