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Sara-Megan Walsh

Sara-Megan Walsh
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Centereach Cougars varsity football team hosted Smithtown West Bulls Oct. 28. With the 33-14 win, the Cougars are now 5-3 in Division II.

Above left, Democratic challenger Avrum Rosen and on right, incumbent Andrew Raia

Both candidates seeking to represent New York State’s 12th Assembly District are aware of the challenges the area faces, but have key differences on the solutions they propose.

Incumbent Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) was elected to represent the 12th District in 2002 and seeks to return to Albany for his ninth term.

His Democrat challenger is Avrum Rosen, an attorney specializing in bankruptcy and tax law at his Huntington-based practice.

Rosen jumped into the race after New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division ruled Aug. 22 that Northport resident Michael Marcantonio, 31, Raia’s original challenger, did not meet the state’s minimum five-year residency requirements.

“When Michael Marcantonio got thrown out this race, I decided someone had to step up,” Rosen said. “While I like [Raia] very much, I don’t like his position on a lot of things. This is not a year when any Republican should go unchallenged in an election.”

LIPA/Northport power plant

Long Island Power Authority’s tax certiorari lawsuit against the Town of Huntington and Northport-East Northport school district over Northport Power Station is a top concern of district residents as mediation begins and possible court trial looms.

“There was never any pressure on [LIPA] to upgrade, do any of the things they needed to do to make it what it should have been,” Rosen said.

Rosen suggested the state should allow town officials to levy a carbon tax against the Northport power plant to encourage LIPA to upgrade it, ultimately raising the value of the plant.

Raia highlighted legislation he co-sponsored earlier this year that would allow the town to spread out any tax rate changes over a 15-year period and granted access to state funds to stabilize taxes. Raia said environmentalists rallied against it for proposing to take money from the greenhouse gas initiative funds.

“No matter who comes back, it’s something that should be reintroduced and maybe we get the money from another pot that the environmentalists are not so concerned about,” the incumbent said.

Taxes 

Raia said he believes the 2 percent state-mandated tax cap has been one the “best things” the state has done to control taxes and cost-of-living on Long Island. He wants to encourage consolidation of services among municipalities and school districts while supporting the lawsuit of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) against the federal government for placing a $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. Raia said he has researched shifting from a property-based to income-based tax model, creating a commercial tax fund and other ways to ease the burden on Long Island homeowners.

Rosen agreed with his opponent that the SALT tax deduction cap needs to be addressed by the state. If elected to office, he proposes the state Legislature considers offering straight tax credits to those with student loans, those entering STEM professions and for parents paying childcare costs. The Democratic challenger said commercial taxes need to be addressed and he believes it needs to be done through a tristate regional approach that brings both New Jersey and Connecticut on board. Rosen questions if the 2 percent state-mandated tax cap can be kept in place in the future if the rate of inflation increases.

Gun Control

Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, this February, gun control has become a larger national issue.

Rosen said he is in favor of microstamping guns, broader background checks and a red flag law that allows police or family to request firearms be removed from owners who might present a danger to themselves or others. He criticized Raia for voting down gun control measures in the past.

The incumbent said over time he has “evolved on the issue,” arguing against parts of various gun control bills for lacking due process. Raia cited that he voted in favor of taking firearms from those convicted of domestic violence once the language was tweaked to only include related crimes, and he wanted to enable investigators charged with researching the mental health backgrounds of those requesting gun permits to cross state lines.

Huntington town officials, members of Veterans of War Post 1469 and Lipsky Construction representatives celebrate the official groundbreaking on a veterans housing complex in Huntington Station Oct. 30. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Columbia Terrace veterans affordable housing project, which has been promised for close to eight years, might be finally coming to fruition.

Town of Huntington officials, members of the Huntington Community Development Agency (CDA) and members of the local Veterans of Foreign War Post 1469 joined Bayport-based Lipsky Construction Oct. 30 to celebrate the start of the project’s construction.

Huntington Station has been waiting decades for neighborhood and economic revitalization, which over the past several years is beginning to mobilize,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “Our veterans and their families make many sacrifices to keep them safe, and we owe them the opportunity and ability for owning a home they can live in.”

Our veterans and their families make many sacrifices to keep them safe, and we owe them the opportunity and ability for owning a home they can live in.”

— Chad Lupinacci

The new development features 14 apartments at the corner of Lowndes Avenue and Railroad Street in Huntington Station. It consist of six, one-bedroom units and eight, two-bedroom condo-style apartments, according to CDA Director Leah Jefferson.

The project was put out to bid again in June with a budget of approximately $3.5 million, Jefferson said. Lipsky Construction was the lowest bidder and a contract signed in September. The project is expected to be completed within 300 days, and have all units sold and occupied by Sept. 30, 2019.

“When I heard it about veterans, I took extra steps to make sure we got on the project,” said Barry Lipsky, the president of Lipsky Construction.“It’s a matter of how much to give back.”

The costs of the units will be offered at 80 percent of the Nassau-Suffolk median income, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo. The one-bedroom apartments  starting at $200,000.

The veterans housing project was first proposed back in 2010, according to Lupinacci. That same year, the CDA was awarded $1.56 million grant from the New York’s Empire State Economic Development Fund Program. An additional $2 million dollars were borrowed by the town from the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund And Agency Fund for the sake of the project, which will be paid back upon the sale of the apartments. Interim funding has been secured by Huntington’s elected officials through People’s United Bank in the form of a construction loan.

“What I found out over the years, veterans don’t ask for a lot. They’re not banging on doors saying ‘gimme, gimme, gimme.” 

— Rick Seryneck

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D), former director of the town’s CDA, said one of challenges has been  rising costs compared to the amount of grant funding available.

The town has also secured $250,000 in funds from the county to go toward road realignment, curbing and street lighting, which Lupinacci said would be installed after construction is finished.

The supervisor said a lottery will be held to fill the apartments closer to the project’s completion.

Rick Serynek, a member of the Huntington Veterans Advisory Board, said he knows veterans who could make use of affordable housing. He said  many of those who have served are not the type to ask for help, even if they need it.

“What I found out over the years, veterans don’t ask for a lot. They’re not banging on doors saying ‘gimme, gimme, gimme,” Serynek said. “All they want is a fair shake.”

Sunny skies were the perfect backdrop for Northport High School’s 2018 homecoming celebration held on Oct. 20 in the Tigers newly redone stadium.

Northport varsity football team took on the Centereach Cougars in a match that saw the visiting team take an early lead. Tenacity and skill won out, as the Tigers won with a final score of 35-6. 

The halftime show featured the marching band, Tigerettes and Flagline who performed a variety of popular songs for the crowd. Seniors Trevor Koulemos and Pegeen Friese were crowned homecoming king and queen at the dance. 

Earlier in the day, Northport-East Northport school district held its annual  Hall of Fame induction in the auditorium. This year’s inductees included: Max Bartig, Class of 2006; Andrew D’Eloia, Class of 1991; Corinne Gandolfi, Class of 2006; Bryan Quinn, Class of 2003; Jaenine Michealsen, Class of 1986; the 2002 state championship girls varsity volleyball team and the Northport Tiger Marching Band, Flagline and Tigerettes.

The Town of Huntington's municipal parking lot between New and Green streets. File Photo by Rohma Abbas

Town of Huntington officials voted to take the next step forward in pursuing construction of a parking garage in Huntington village Oct. 23. Yet, both elected officials and business owners remain divided over whether it is the best solution to a decades-old problem in this modern era.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) led the town’s Local Development Corporation in approving the release of up to $16,000 to investigate the feasibility of constructing a parking structure in Huntington village over the existing municipal lot between New and Green streets by a 4-1 vote.

“We want to continue trying to explore and see what our options are with that area to see if the ground is physically sound to build something,” Lupinacci said. “We don’t want to lose any grant money that may be available to us.”

We want to continue trying to explore and see what our options are with that area to see if the ground is physically sound to build something.”

—Chad Lupinacci

The $16,000 in funds will be used to conduct soil borings, a topographic survey of the area, prepare utility mark-outs and other necessary preliminary steps needed prior to start of construction, according to Lupinacci.

In December 2017, the town had been awarded a $1.7 million grant from the state’s Regional Economic Council for construction of a facility to ease the village’s long-term parking woes.

The town had previously contracted with Level G Associates of Bethpage who completed a report in May 2017 that determined it was both physically and economically feasible for the town to construct a 528-space parking deck. To date, the town does not have any conceptual plans for a garage, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo.

That may be due in part to the divide between elected officials, local business owners and Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce on whether constructing a new facility is the best solution.

Councilman Eugene Cook (I) was the sole vote against further studies for a proposed parking garage between New and Green streets Tuesday night.

Why spend $16,000 if we may not need it,? There are stages that we need to go through to do it properly, and I think we are rushing it with this stage.”

— Eugene Cook

“Why spend $16,000 if we may not need it,” he said. “There are stages that we need to go through to do it properly, and I think we are rushing it with this stage.”

Cook said there are new town employees in the town’s Public Safety Department who are researching the cause of parking issues plaguing the town and expressed some “good ideas.” The councilman cited advances in technology, such as the future possibility of automated cars, could change both transportation and resulting parking needs of the area.

Brian Yudewitz, chairman of Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber holds a similar position that alternative solutions to a parking garage and modern technologies need to be more closely considered after getting feedback from its members. He said the town’s last parking study was done before the prolific use of ride services like Lift, Uber and the new Qwik Ride shuttles.

“The word we’re getting from a lot of merchants in town is those things are being used quite a bit,” Yudewitz said. “Another thing we do suggest is the re-evaluation of the structure of the municipal lots and paid parking structure as it stands to see if there’s a better way to get people in and out.”

The town implemented metered street-side parking in Huntington village in April 2014 and renewed its contract with Devo & Associates for the parking pay system Tuesday night for another three years through September 2021. Yet, the system has its critics.

I would be so in favor of them building even a two-story parking garage.” 

— Gabriel Garcia

“It’s upsetting for many people,” Gabriel Garcia, manager of Bistro Cassis said. “I understand why they do it, but you can’t expect people to park for only three hours if they want to spend a whole night out on the town.”

Garcia said available parking spaces in Huntington village remains his biggest concern, given patrons regularly express their frustrations to him and state they won’t visit the restaurant on weekends due to a lack of available slots.

“I would be so in favor of them building even a two-story parking garage,” he said.

He estimated only 30 percent of his restaurant’s clientele would be willing to consider using ride services such as Uber or the Qwik Ride shuttles, as they don’t rely on other sources for transportation.

Across town, Honu Kitchen & Cocktails owner Mark Zecher said he frequently sees customers utilizing Qwik Ride shuttles, since it started operating in August, and public transportation playing a positive role in addressing the area’s parking issues.

I always tell people, ‘If we didn’t’ have a parking problem, we’d all have a problem.'”

— Mark Zecher

“More and more people are using Uber, and it not only has to do with the parking situation but the drinking and driving laws,” Zecher said. “People are becoming much more conscious and responsible.”

Zecher said there is an ever-present need for more parking by the village’s businesses.

“I always tell people, ‘If we didn’t’ have a parking problem, we’d all have a problem,’” he said.

Despite his business being close to the proposed site of the parking garage, Zecher said he was unsure if more municipal lots or a new facility was the best solution for parking woes given potential costs or the possible impact of neighboring businesses during construction.

“At the end of the day, more parking spots would be good but how we get there and how it affects businesses along the way is a question I can’t answer,” Zecher said.

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Double double toil — but it’s no trouble decorating for Halloween for a Smithtown resident whose creativity knows no bounds.

Myra Naseem, owner of Elegant Eating, brings a fun and almost whimsical spirit of the holiday alive in her Smithtown home. She handcrafts dolls into witches holding pumpkins and brews, their clothes made from scraps of antique cloth and drapes. Spiders are set out to guard potion vials marked with  titles including “Graveyard Dust” and “Moth’s Delight” throughout the various rooms of her house.

The decorations create a spooky atmosphere that showcases  Naseem’s talent, both in the kitchen and out, while providing a one-of-a-kind atmosphere for catering events. 

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Kings Park girls volleyball defeated visiting Hauppauge in four sets, 3-1, Oct. 22.

The win improved the Lady Kingsmen’s record to 9-2, putting them in second place in League V with one game remaining in regular season play.

Kings Park will hit the road to play Harborfields Oct. 25 at 5:45 p.m. in their last 2018 league match.

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A Smithtown man has been arrested and charged with allegedly threatening to murder two U.S. Senators for supporting Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ronald Derisi, 74, was arrested Friday at his home and was slated to be arraigned in Federal Court in Central Islip Friday afternoon.

Over the last month, a U.S. Capital police officer has alleged that Derisi used a pre-paid cellphone to leave more than 10 voicemails at the offices of two U.S. senators who were supportive of Kavanaugh, according to the court documents. Federal prosecutors have declined to identify the two senators threatened at this time.
Police said they believe Derisi left two voicemails Sept. 27 for one senator, who is only identified as their home state “is not New York.” While the male caller did not identify himself, in the first message it was said he had a “present” for the elected official, specifically, “a 9MM [gun].”

In a second voicemail recorded less than an hour later, the caller ranted, “We’re tired of this guy. Sucking tax payers’ money! Getting a free [expletive] ride! How many more years you gonna do it? None! He’s a dead man!”

In addition, Derisi allegedly left 10 voicemails at the Washington D.C. office of a second senator between Oct. 6 and 8, according to capital police. The male caller did not identify himself by name in any of the messages. In one call, the man police believe to be Derisi allegedly attempted to get the senator’s home address.

“Thanks to you [Senator], we now have a sexual predator on the Supreme Court…,” the caller stated in one voicemail, according to court records. “Good job [senator], thank you very much. We will proceed to correct it…”

Police said they used telephone records from a wireless service provider to track the purchase of the pre-paid cellphone back to a debit card in Derisi’s name. In addition, the voicemails were compared to other recordings of threatening calls previously made by the Smithtown resident.

Derisi has a prior record of making threatening phone calls dating back to February 2015. He pled guilty to one count of second-degree aggravated harassment in Nassau County First District Court after repeatedly calling a victim’s home and office more than 15 times.

At the request of U.S. Capital police, the Nassau detective on the case was asked to listen to the voicemails left for the two senators and “the detective believes the voice on the threatening recordings left for the two senators sounds like Derisi’s voice,” according to records.

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.

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