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Commack Firefighters and New York police officers joined together in remembrance of Charles Oddo Feb. 17. Photo from Commack Fire Department.

Commack firefighters demonstrated the meaning of “gone, but not forgotten” for a fallen brother.

Commack Fire Department held a memorial ceremony Feb. 17 for former member and New York police officer Charles Oddo, who was killed in the line of duty 22 years ago.

Oddo, an East Northport native and highway patrolman, died February 1996 after being struck by a car while placing flares around an overturned gas truck on the Gowanus Expressway. He was 33.

“Charles Oddo was a guardian and protector from his earliest years,” said Steve Silverman, a spokesman for the Commack Fire Department. “He transitioned from watching over his younger sister in this very park, to protecting the people of Commack. He continued to follow the calling to the NYPD’s elite Highway Patrol Unit.”

The ceremony was held at the former Verleye Park, which was renamed Charles A. Oddo Verleye Park in his honor June 2016. Oddo grew up within walking distance of the park and had played there as a child.

“Standing here brings back happy memories for me of a carefree time when life was simple, innocent, fun, filled with love and laughter under the protection of my brother,” said Maria Oddo Forger, Charles’ sister, at the park’s 2016 renaming.

Oddo graduated from John Glenn High School in 1981. In 1982, he joined the Commack Fire Department, where he served as a volunteer firefighter, paramedic and mechanic. The East Northport native became a member of the New York City Police Department in 1990 and was transferred to the Brooklyn highway unit five years later.

Saint Anthony's High School in South Huntington. Photo from Google Maps.

A student of St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington was killed in a car crash this weekend, according to school officials.

Anthony Pagano, senior at Saint Anthony’s High School. Photo from Facebook.

Brother Gary Cregan, principal of St. Anthony’s High School, announced that senior Anthony Pagano was involved in a serious car crash this weekend. Details of the accident were not immediately made available. Pagano played on the Friars’ varsity baseball team in spring 2017.

“Death is never easy, but the death of a young person is particularly heartbreaking and difficult to accept,” Cregan wrote in his message. “As Roman Catholics, we must rely on our faith to give us strength in the face of tragedy, and to help us understand why a young man on the verge of adulthood would be taken from us far too soon.”

The principal offered his condolences to the family, noting Pagano’s brother, Joseph, is a sophomore at St. Anthony’s.

Visitation hours will be held Feb. 21, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.; and on Feb. 22, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at M.A. Connell Funeral Home located at 934 New York Ave. in Huntington. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Feb 23 at 9:30 a.m. at St. Elizabeth’s Church, 175 Wolf Hill Road in Melville. Interment will follow at Locust Valley Cemetery in Locust Valley.

Three-day free medical clinic to treat more than 1,000 residents in need

A doctor speaks with patients at the 2017 free medical clinic in Haiti. Photo from Ginette Rows.

It’s easy to be critical of the severe problems Haiti faces, but a group of Huntington residents are taking on the challenge of finding a solution to its health care problems.

Two Huntington residents have organized a group to fly to Haiti Feb. 16 to launch their second free mobile medical clinic to provide basic medical services to those in desperate need.

“Last year was the first time we did a clinic,” Pastor Georges Franck said. “It was so successful that we decided to do it again last year.”

Franck, leader of Huntington Station’s Church of God, is working in partnership with Yam Community Resource Inc., a Huntington Station-based nonprofit that offers quality-of-life services for the Haitian community, to assemble a team of medical professionals to run a three-day medical clinic in Aquin, a city on the southern coast of Haiti.

“We expected we will have maybe 100 people a day, and we ended up at least 300 a day,” said Ginette Rows, president of Yam Community Resource. “By the time we finished, we saw 1,079 people. This year, I expect more.”

Huntington resident Ginette Rows, far right, and Pastor Georges Franck, far leg, with volunteers at the 2017 medical clinic in Haiti. Photo from Ginette Rows.

Since Hurricane Matthew devastated the island in October 2016, Rows said it has been a struggle to rebuild as the hurricane was the first of a chain of natural disasters that has led to high unemployment rates. Word of the medical clinic is spread primarily via word of mouth, according to Rows. Locals from the surrounding villages will travel long distances — often walking for hours — in hopes of being seen by a physician.

“The people we are seeing do not have the financial means to pay for medical care,” she said. “If you have money, the priority is feeding the family, shelter and paying for school.”

Donations are collected from the approximately 120 members of the Huntington parish to purchase basic medical supplies, such as scales, and over-the-counter medication, according to its pastor. Franck said medications like Advil, which may cost $6 or $8 in the U.S., may wind up costing $12 to $13 in Haiti due to increased costs of shipping and accessibility. Each volunteer pays his or her own travel costs and expenses.

The hundreds who line up to visit the clinic each day are screened by a team of nurses, Rows said, who is a nurse herself. The nurses take their blood pressure, pulse, medical history and check blood sugar to screen for diabetes. Among the most common issues are malnutrition, maternal care, dental issues and high blood pressure.

“There are 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds that are severely underweight,” Rows said. “Last year we weren’t prepared to weigh them, so we’ve shipped down our own scales, so we can see how big of an issue it is.”

Her goal, as a Haitian immigrant whose father was among the first to come to Huntington in the 1960s, is to collect organized data on the specific medical issues treated to recruit specialists to join the team at future clinics to improve Haitians’ quality of life. She hopes to eventually build a permanent partnership with local hospitals and medical organizations to improve the standards of preventative health care for residents.

“I consider myself a member of the Haitian family,” Rows said. “Regardless of religion, I am there to assist them in some way.”

To learn more about Yam Community Resource, visit its website at www.yamcommunity.com.

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File photo

Suffolk County police yesterday arrested a Kings Park man for allegedly impersonating a police officer in a Ronkonkoma hotel parking lot.

Two plain clothes officers saw a man sitting in a silver 2014 Hyundai Tucson in the rear parking lot of the Clarion Hotel, located on Veterans Memorial Highway.  Officers noticed smoke and approached the vehicle to investigate. Police said they allegedly smelled marijuana and noticed the man was wearing a police badge.  They interviewed the man, who allegedly admitted the badge was fake. The officers also claim to have found an expandable baton and a fake police chief placard in the vehicle in plain view.

Justin Conte, 43, of Kings Park, was arrested Feb. 15 and brought to the precinct. Police said they discovered he had a valid pistol permit with three weapons. Officers went to safeguard the weapons at his house, where they allegedly found three illegal guns including two AR-15 rifles and a 38-caliber revolver. Numerous other types of police equipment were also found, according to police.

Conte was charged with one felony count of first-degree criminal impersonation, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a firearm, and two felony counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon following the investigation by the 5th squad.

Conte will be held overnight at the 5th Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 16 at First District Court in Central Islip.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone who has additional information is asked to contact the Fifth Squad at 631-854-8552.

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Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said construction scheduled to begin in March

The master plan for the spray park at Elwood Park is revealed September 2017. The plans are in memory of a Huntington resident Paul Tuozzolo, who was killed in the line of duty. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington’s first interactive water park is one step closer to construction with the approval of town funding.

Huntington Town Board unanimously voted to appropriate $230,000 for the construction and installation of a spray park in honor of fallen New York City police Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo within Elwood Park at their Feb. 6 meeting.

“It’s important that we are recognizing a wonderful family and an officer who died in the line of duty who has left behind two young children who will no doubt be using the spray park,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “It’s a nice way to remember Officer Tuozzolo.”

Children Austin and Joseph Tuozzolo sit with a family member at the spray park’s unveiling in September 2017. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington resident Tuozzolo, 41, was working for the 43rd Precinct in the Soundview section of the Bronx in November 2016 when he was shot and killed responding to what was reported as a home invasion, but later turned out to be a domestic incident. A police dispatcher told responding officers that a man who had broken into the home was fleeing in a car, which Tuozzolo swiftly tracked down. Upon approaching the vehicle, the suspect opened fire and shot Tuozzolo who later died of his injuries.

“It’s a very fitting way to remember the sacrifices of Sgt. Tuozzollo who lost his life back in 2016,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “It’s a real tribute to his life, legacy and the work he did on behalf of protecting people and the community, making sure public safety was there to help.”

The police officer is survived by his wife, Lisa, and two young sons, Austin and Joseph.

“The two most important children in his life were his sons, Austin and Joseph, and the moment he walked through the doorway upon returning from work, our home lit up as bright as the sun from the smiles on everyone’s faces,” Lisa Tuozzolo said, at the September 2017 unveiling of the spray park plans. “[The] dedication is a fitting tribute to the devotion he had toward his children and I know that he is smiling down with great pride, knowing that his boys will have laughter and smiles at this spray park.”

The spray park is set to cover a 2,500-square-foot area with
approximately 1,600 square feet of active play features that will be purchased from playground equipment manufacturer
Waterplay Solutions. Its equipment will include a shade structure, six park benches, a 4-foot vinyl-coated chain-link fence and a memorial trellis naming the park.

The preliminary estimated cost of the project is $450,000. The town board’s Feb. 6 action appropriated $230,000 from the Parks and Recreation Capital Improvement Reserve Fund, which will not incur any additional debt service payments. Other sources of funding will include using money paid by the developer of The Seasons at Elwood as part of the community benefits agreement with the town.

Lupinacci said the town remains on track with its initial plans to break ground on construction of the spray park in March 2018. It is slated to be the first interactive water park completed in the Town of Huntington, with second to be built at the James D. Conte Community Center in Huntington Station

A public hearing on the Creekside by the Harbor II apartment's plans will be held Feb. 15 at 7 p.m

Valencia Tavern in Huntington. Image from Google Maps

As Huntington residents rally against demolition of a local watering hole for mixed-use development, they were surprised to learn of a second set of plans.

Elizabeth Turney, owner of Huntington’s Valencia Tavern, stepped forward at the Feb. 6 Huntington Town board meeting to ask residents to stop protesting plans for the future mixed-use development of the site for retail with 24 apartments overhead.

“It’s wonderful so many people love the Valencia and have great memories there, I have great memories there too,” Turney said. “I now have the opportunity to get out of the bar business and focus on my health and family.”

If the petition is successful in stopping the sale of the property, I’m left with empty buildings as my tenants have already found new [premises], and I have no other offers.”
— Elizabeth Turney

The bar owner said she can no longer continue running Valencia Tavern as she is dealing with health issues, and neither of her children are able to take over the family-run business as originally planned. The building, she claims, is in need of costly repairs to remain in good standing — funds she doesn’t have.

Turney said the only offer she’s received to purchase the land is from developer, 236 VT Wall Street LLC, which submitted conceptual plans to demolish the tavern and construct a three-story building with 7,840-square-foot retail space and 24 apartments above. The developers seek to acquire more than 9,000 square feet of town-owned land along West Shore and Creek roads in Huntington.

An online petition titled “Save the Valencia Tavern,” that has received more than 375 signatures as of press time, was presented by Huntington resident Bob Suter to the Huntington Town Board Jan. 23 in an effort to save what he called one of the town’s most iconic taverns.

“If the petition is successful in stopping the sale of the property, I’m left with empty buildings as my tenants have already found new [premises], and I have no other offers,” Turney said Feb. 6. “Abandoned buildings, that’s not a good thing for the town either.”

Matt Suter, Bob’s son and a Huntington native, said that the petition signers are angry and frustrated with the direction of development in the town.

“This is an epidemic of apartments on one of Huntington’s most environmentally sensitive areas and it must be stopped.”
—Matt Suter

“This petition reflects mounting opposition among your constituents against another real estate deal to replace another corner of Huntington’s heritage with a mixed-use monstrosity no one wants,” he said.

He also pointed to plans submitted by Creekside by the Harbor Phase II LLC to construct an 18-apartment complex on Creek Road in Halesite, approximately 500 feet down the road from the Valencia Tavern.

A public hearing on the Creekside plans will be held before Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals Feb. 15 for a zoning change from residential to garden apartment special district and for parking relief.

Matt Suter asked town officials to also consider that both Valencia Tavern and the Creek Road property border the town’s Mill Dam Park, environmentally sensitive wetlands that are both protected and prone to flooding.

“This is an epidemic of apartments on one of Huntington’s most environmentally sensitive areas and it must be stopped,” Matt Suter said.

The St. James firehouse on Route 25A/Lake Avenue. Photo from Google Maps

A second lawsuit has been filed against the St. James Fire Dept. and its leadership as a third volunteer has stepped forward alleging unfair treatment over social media.

St. James resident John Tyson filed a federal lawsuit against St. James Fire Department and St. James Fire District Jan. 31 seeking $700,000 in damages for being first suspended, then dismissed as a volunteer allegedly over a series of Facebook posts. He claims the firehouse’s actions violated his First Amendment right to free speech and due process rights under New York State law.

“These acts were taken purely in retaliation for [Tyson] exercising his rights to free speech by expressing views which were contrary to the views of the majority of the Fire Department’s governing body,” the lawsuit reads.

“These acts were taken purely in retaliation for [Tyson] exercising his rights to free speech by expressing views which were contrary to the views of the majority of the Fire Department’s governing body.”

— John Tyson lawsuit

Tyson was a longtime volunteer of the fire department and admitted he was an administrator of the St. James Fire Department Engine Company #1 Facebook group, along with siblings Richard and Tricia Weisse. After the Sept. 19, 2017, bond vote failed 775-459, Tricia Weisse posted a photograph of the historic Lake Avenue firehouse to the Facebook group. An unidentified person posted as a comment, “It is tough, unless you are looking for a new place to party, to see these pics and remain absolutely unemotional about tearing it down. Nice pics,” according to the court documents.

The St. James volunteer alleges in the lawsuit he received a phone call Sept. 29 from Second Assistant Chief David Mills saying that until one of the three administrators of the Facebook group admitted to posting the offensive comment, he was suspended from attending all social activities. He received a letter dated Sept. 28 signed by Chief Edward Springer confirming his suspension through Dec. 31 for allegedly violating the district’s social media policy.

“The letter did not accuse [Tyson] of posting the comment, but rather, held him responsible for the post because he was one of the three administrators of the Facebook group,” the lawsuit reads. “However, the post did not violate the social media policy, and the claimant had not violated the social media policy merely by being an administrator of the Facebook group on which the post was made.”

On Dec. 12, Tyson posted a comment on the Facebook group Citizens for a Safer St. James in response to a video made by Joe Kuethen who was running for fire commissioner. In Tyson’s comments, he wrote, “Unification of the firefighters? Difficult. That responsibility rests with the chiefs who are centered on exploiting differences and punishing those of opposing opinion.”

Tyson said he received a phone call from fire district officers Jan. 2 advising him that he was suspended from the fire department due to his post and “cannot go to the firehouse at all.” The decision, Tyson alleges, was made without any notice of the charges against him and he wasn’t provided with a hearing as required for volunteers under New York general municipal law.

Jessica Novins, a spokeswoman for the fire district, said the fire commissioners “cannot comment on matters of litigation.”

On Jan. 3, St. James Fire Department held its monthly meeting — which Tyson understood he was prohibited from attending — where its approximately 100 members voted to terminate him as a volunteer. Tyson said he was embarrassed and humiliated to learn of this, having only heard about the vote afterwards.

Kevin Barattini, a spokesman for St. James Fire Department, said the organization has no comment at this time.

This is the second lawsuit filed against St. James Fire Department and the fire district in the last three months. The Weisses, third-generation volunteers with Engine Company #1, filed a lawsuit Dec. 19 in federal court alleging the fire department, fire district and its officers illegally prevented them from attending any social events due to the Facebook post made after the bond vote in September. The pair is also seeking money for their “emotional distress, mental anguish, embarrassment and humiliation.”

Democrat Steve Stern, former Suffolk County legislator, and Republican hopeful Janet Smitelli to campaign

Republican Party candidate Janet Smitelli, and Democrat Party candidate Steve Stern. File photos

A former Suffolk County legislator and a longtime Huntington political hopeful will face off to fill Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci’s (R) former state Assembly seat.

Democrat Steve Stern, who previously represented the 16th District in the Suffolk County Legislature, will campaign against Republican Party candidate Janet Smitelli in the April 24 special election to fill the
vacancy in the 10th District of the New York State Assembly.

“It’s going to be a very condensed campaign, a campaign where every second counts,” said Toni Tepe, chairwoman of the Huntington Republican Committee.

Janet Smitelli 

Smitelli was selected by the Suffolk County Republican Committee Feb. 12 after several candidates were screened, according to Tepe, and Lupinacci was part of the screening committee.

“I think she’s an excellent choice to fight for us in the state Legislature,” Lupinacci said. “She’s very involved in the community and has a great background in terms of public service. She has the background, the fortitude and the skills needed to represent the 10th Assembly District.”

I think she’s an excellent choice to fight for us in the state Legislature.”
— Chad Lupinacci

Smitelli is a civil litigator who has lived in Huntington for more than 20 years. A member of the Republican committee for more than 10 years, she is active locally with the Boy Scouts and has served as an assistant Scoutmaster.

In 2015, Smitelli ran an unsuccessful campaign against incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Lou D’Amaro (D-North Babylon) in the hopes of representing the 17th Legislative District. If elected in April, it would be her first time holding a political office, according to Tepe.

“I believe she will run a strong campaign and she is certainly a supporter of the Republican initiatives and agenda,” the party chairwoman said. “She will be very conscientious of constituent services and saving money for the taxpayers she represents.”

Steve Stern

Rich Schaffer, chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said Stern won his party’s nomination.

“I think he’s an excellent candidate,” said Mary Collins, chairwoman of the Huntington Town Democratic Committee, citing Stern’s record as a legislator. “He was very attentive to constituents and he worked on many issues that were important to his district.”

“[Stern] was very attentive to constituents and he worked on many issues that were important to his district.”— Mary Collins

Stern left the county Legislature Dec. 31, term limited from office after 12 years representing the 16th District. He sat on the Suffolk County Veterans and Seniors Committee and previously touted his accomplishments to include the Housing Our Homeless Heroes initiative, a package of bills that aimed to end veteran homelessness in Suffolk, and the creation of the Silver Alert system designed to locate missing senior citizens.

Stern called himself a leading proponent of sewer infrastructure development during his 2015 campaign. He co-sponsored legislation identifying what areas would be best served by sewers and choosing how to prioritize which neighborhoods get developed first, which he said was particularly crucial to Huntington.

The party whose candidate is elected April 24 to represent the 10th District will serve approximately 130,000 residents, according to 2010 census data, which includes all or part of Cold Spring Harbor, East Northport, Greenlawn, Lloyd Harbor, Lloyd Neck, Melville, Huntington and Huntington Station.

This story was last updated Feb. 16 @ 2:05 p.m. 

 

More than 200 pints collected at 8th annual Glenn Ciano memorial blood drive

Suffolk County Police Officer Glen Ciano. File Photo.

Some consider finding a penny with a loved ones’ date of birth or a special anniversary a message from heaven. For Commack firefighters, there was a message in the 222 pints of blood that were donated Feb. 10.

Officer Glen Ciano was the 22nd member of Suffolk County Police Department killed in the line of duty. He died Feb. 22, 2009. Ciano was a 22-year veteran of the 2nd Precinct based in Huntington, which at the time had 21 patrol cars under its command. When Ciano died, the precinct retired his car and the next patrol squad car, No. 222, was named in Ciano’s honor.

“Everybody is saying there’s something going on, that Glen sent us a message,” said John Bicocchi, president of the Commack Fire Department. “It’s like he’s saying hello.”

“Everybody is saying there’s something going on, that Glen sent us a message”
— John Bicocchi

The fire department held its 8th annual Glen Ciano memorial blood drive Feb. 10, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hundreds of Commack residents, firefighters and Suffolk County police officers lined up to donate.

“It is our honor to honor Glen in this way,” said Pat Fazio, commissioner of the Commack Fire Department. “Glen was someone who gave everything, 100 percent of the time and he gave it all.”

Ciano died while responding to a call for backup in 2009. While at the intersection of Vanderbilt Motor Parkway and Commack Road in Commack, his vehicle was struck by a 2007 Dodge Magnum and burst into flames upon hitting a nearby telephone pole. Commack firefighters responded to the scene.

Ciano is survived by his wife, Sue, and two children, Samantha and Daniel.

The driver of the Dodge Magnum, Jose Borbon, pled guilty to first-degree vehicular manslaughter and aggravated driving while intoxicated in November 2010.

Fazio said the Commack Fire Department renamed their blood drive after Ciano upon his death to honor his service to community residents and mentoring of firefighters in the fire department.

“By having a blood drive in [Ciano’s] memory, it’s a way for him to continue helping his community by supporting people and donating blood.”
— Stuart Cameron

“It’s wonderful they are continuing his memory in a most appropriate fashion by having this blood drive every year,” said Stuart Cameron, chief of department for Suffolk County police. “By having a blood drive in his memory, it’s a way for him to continue helping his community by supporting people and donating blood.”

Sue Lingenfelter, business development manager for New York Blood Center, said the organization has experienced a shortage of blood donations. Long Island needs nearly 800 pints donated per day and New York-Metro area 2,000 pints per day, according to Lingenfelter, to assure a steady supply for medical treatments and emergencies.

“Here in New York metro area, less than 2 percent of eligible donors give blood, which is the worst percentage of participation in the country,” she said.

This winter, Long Island’s blood banks have been negatively impacted by the influenza epidemic, cold weather, blizzards cancelling several blood drive events and government shutdowns.

“No one ever knows when they are going to need blood, but everyone expects it to be there,” Lingenfelter said.

Susan Ciano said she attends the event every year, talking to attendees about their memories of her husband.

“What I look forward to in February — it’s a tough month for me — is this blood drive,” she said. “When I go, I see many of the same people and many new people. I am there all day long because I want to thank people for giving their time.”

This post was last updated Feb. 15 at 2:08 p.m. 

Suffolk County police, Commack Fire Department to honor Glen Ciano at Feb. 10 event

Susan Ciano announces the 8th annual blood drive in memory of her late husband, former Suffolk County police officer Glen Ciano. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

Suffolk County police and Commack firefighters will be holding a blood drive to honor an officer who died in the line of duty.

The 8th annual Glen Ciano Memorial Blood Drive will be at the Commack Fire Department’s main firehouse on Jericho Turnpike Feb. 10, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It is our honor to honor Glen in this way,” said Pat Fazio, commissioner of the Commack Fire Department. “Glen was someone who gave everything,100 percent of the time and he gave it all.”

Officer Ciano, a 22-year Suffolk County Police Department veteran who worked out of the 2nd Precinct in Huntington, died while responding to a call for backup Feb. 22, 2009. While at the intersection of Vanderbilt Motor Parkway and Commack Road in Commack, his vehicle was struck by a 2007 Dodge Magnum and burst into flames upon hitting a nearby telephone pole.

The driver of the Dodge Magnum, Jose Borbon, pled guilty to first-degree vehicular manslaughter and aggravated driving while intoxicated in November 2010.

Fazio said the Commack Fire Department renamed its blood drive after Ciano upon his death to honor his service to community residents and mentoring of firefighters in the department.

“It’s wonderful they are continuing his memory in a most appropriate fashion by having this blood drive every year,” said Stuart Cameron, chief of department for Suffolk County police. “By having a blood drive in his memory, it’s a way for him to continue helping his community by supporting people an donating blood.”

Ciano’s wife, Susan, said she attends the event each and every year, talking to attendees about their memories of her husband.

“What I look forward to in February — it’s a tough month for me — is this blood drive,” she said. “When I go, I see many of the same people and many new people. I am there all day long because I want to thank people for giving their time.”

The blood drive will be held at the main fire house, located at 6309 Jericho Turnpike in Commack. Donors must be between the ages of 16, with signed parental consent, and 75 years old, with doctor’s written permission.

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