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Sara-Megan Walsh

Sara-Megan Walsh
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A screenshot of the Town of Smithtown's website as it appeared Jan. 8.

By David Luces

Town of Smithtown officials are looking for input from the community on what they would like to see in a remodeled town website.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said in a statement that the redesign of the town’s website is long overdue.

“Many residents have asked that our website be a little more modern, easier to use and visually appealing,” Wehrheim said. “We hope this survey will give those who have suggestions or ideas the chance to share them with our web design team and later the community.”

Smithtown’s website was last updated eight years ago, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo.

Many residents have asked that our website be a little more modern, easier to use and visually appealing.” 

— Ed Wehrheim

“One of the primary things I’ve wanted to see get done was the remodeling of the town’s website,” she said. “I spoke with our IT director and he agreed with the plans to update the website.”

When it came to decide how the town would update the website, Garguilo said the town board considered a few options, including WordPress and other web-design services. However, it decided to stay with CivicPlus, a web development business that specializes in building city and county e-government communication systems that currently maintains the website.

“We have worked with them for quite some time,” she said. “They offered to upgrade our current web page and we thought it would be more efficient.”

As part of the remodeling, the town has put out a survey for residents to complete by Jan. 11.

Kenneth Burke, the town’s IT director,   said the main goal of the survey is to see what residents like and don’t like in a new website.

“We want to address residents’ needs and kind of build a road map of how we are going redesign the website,” Burke said.

The community survey consists of 10 questions that ask respondents to answer how frequently they visit the town’s website, the ease of finding information, what pages they visit the most often and what features they would like to see included in the redesign. There is also a section where residents can give written answers to any special needs they have regarding webpage browsing and suggested changes.

He estimated the redesign would be approximately a six-month project and hopes to roll out the new website in June.

“We want to address residents’ needs and kind of build a road map of how we are going redesign the website.”

—Kenneth Burke

The town has also reached out to local online groups, such as Smithtown Moms, to get their opinions on a new website. Once the final results of the survey come in, town employees will start data mining and compiling content for the new website.

Garguilo said the content creation side of the new website should take about four to five months to be completed because of back-end organizing, which includes record transfers and archival data. The new interface should take less time to be completed.

“We are working on a 30-second teaser video for the Town of Smithtown,” the town spokesperson said. “It will be like an about us video right off the bat when you get on the website.”

Garguilo said that the video will include  important facts and pictures of landmarks to showcase the town.

Another plan the town has is the creation of an app that can work in conjunction with the new website.

“Lets just say a resident wanted to report something — they can go to the app and fill out a form — and that’ll be sent right to our system,” Garguilo said. “This will lead to faster results and hopefully residents are happier.”

To participate, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/SmithtownWebsiteRedesign through Jan. 11.

Huntington High School graduate Landary Rivas Argueta steps forward to speak about the GoFundMe for Alex at the Jan. 7 meeting. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Among the outpouring of emotions by Huntington residents Monday night, were tears and calls on the community to come to the aid of Alex, the Huntington High School student who was deported to his native Honduras in July 2018.

Landary Rivas Argueta, a 2016 graduate of Huntington High School, said he and his fellow Latino community members made a GoFundMe account titled “Justice for Alex” after reading the New York Times Magazine article published Dec. 27.

“I’ve been working closely with Alex’s family and brother, as me and my friends have made a GoFundMe to help the family given everything that’s happened,” he said.

This family is very hard working and have done all they can to try to protect their son.”

—Justice for Alex GoFundMe page

Alex’s family has racked up approximately $25,000 in bills since their son’s plight began between legal fees, transportation costs, loss of wages and providing for him while living in Honduras, according to the GoFundMe site.

“This family is very hard working and have done all they can to try to protect their son,” the GoFundMe page read.

While admitting he didn’t know Alex when he was living in Huntington, Rivas Argueta said he’s gotten involved simply as it’s the right thing to do.

Several other Huntington residents pleaded with Huntington school district administrators to take what actions they can to help Alex.

“Huntington High School must get rid of Operation Matador, reunite Alex with his family, close the detention centers and treat all people of color  with respect,” Huntington resident Susan Widerman said.

Huntington board of education trustee Xavier Palacios said he’s received dozens of emails, phone calls and text messages from alumni ranging from San Diego to New Jersey  asking how they can be of help.

“Few times do I see the outpouring of compassion that I’ve seen in Alex’s case,” he said.

The GoFundMe has raised $1,500 of its $10,000 goal as of 8 p.m. Jan. 8. The page can be found at www.gofundme.com/rehbs-justice-for-alex. Social media updates are being posted under #justiceforalex and #justiciaparaalex.d

Huntington High School. File Photo

An outpouring of anger, tears and frustration rocked Huntington Monday night as hundreds of residents expressed concern about an article published by The New York Times Magazine during the school’s holiday break.

There was standing-room only inside the auditorium of Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School Jan. 7 as parents, teachers and students lined up to address Huntington school district’s board of education in reaction to the Dec. 27 publication of the article, “How a crackdown on MS-13 caught up innocent high school students,” written by ProPublica reporter Hannah Dreier.

The Times article focused on the experience of an immigrant teenager at Huntington High School, named Alex, who was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in June 2017 for suspected MS-13 gang affiliation. The story alleges Huntington school district’s school resource officer, Suffolk County police officer Andrew Fiorello, provided information and school documents to ICE that led to the student’s deportation in July 2018.

“The issue is very clear: Our classmates are being accused of participating in gang activity on evidence that does not prove their involvement beyond a reasonable doubt,” Steve Yeh, Huntington’s Class of 2017 valedictorian said. “Our school failed to protect our classmate.”

The facts questioned

Brenden Cusack, principal of Huntington High School, was the first to step forward Monday night to refute the magazine piece he claims “mischaracterizes” events portrayed.

“It is a clear misrepresentation of our school and of me, both personally and professionally,” he said. “The story as published is not the full story.”

In the article, Cusack reportedly wrote up Alex for allegedly defacing school property — a calculator — with gang symbols. The article states he informed the student it would be reported to the school resource officer.

Huntington parents and community members give a standing ovation after high school Principal Brendan Cusack’s speech. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The high school principal did not address the facts behind the immigrant teen’s case before the crowd gathered, citing student privacy laws.

“While it would be simple to argue statements and context in numerous places within the article, it does not change the fact that the events, as presented, are beyond upsetting,” read a Dec. 28 letter issued by the school district in response to the article. “We deeply regret the harm faced by any family in our community who has been separated from a child.”

This sentiment was echoed again by Huntington’s Superintendent of Schools James Polansky Monday night.

“There are many things about it that are deeply upsetting,” he said.

Huntington school district’s staff is not the only source used in the magazine article upset with the portrayals in the piece. Joanne Adam, director of Huntington Public Library, said the article claims its head of security banned students who have been suspended from school for suspected gang activity is untrue.

“It’s not our policy to ban people simply because they might be suspected of being in a gang,” Adam said.

Both library branches, Huntington and Huntington Station, are staffed by in-house security personnel and do not have any specific policies with regards to handling gang violence, according to Adam. In the last four years, she said she could not recall any incidents where Suffolk County Police Department was contacted for any related gang activity.

“If someone is suspected of being in a gang and using the library, they are just as welcome to use it as the next person,” Adam said. “So long as they are coming in and using a library as they should be.”

 

Immigrant students voice fears

Huntington High School students decried the current atmosphere and actions they’ve seen made by school officials in their interactions with immigrants and students of racial minorities.

“I know what it’s like to be a Latino in Huntington,” Landary Rivas Argueta, a 2016 Huntington graduate said. “It’s not welcoming, it’s not safe, it doesn’t feel like home anymore.”

More than a dozen recent high school graduates, collaborating as the Concerned Alumni for Protecting Our Classmates, say regardless of the factual truths in the Times article they have concerns over the adequacy of services provided for immigrant students and the district’s treatment of racial minorities.

“I know what it’s like to be a Latino in Huntington. It’s not welcoming, it’s not safe, it doesn’t feel like home anymore.”

—Landary Rivas Argueta

“We believe the school administration is responsible for providing a safe environment for all students to learn and grown,” read a Jan. 7 written statement to Huntington’s school board. “We were appalled to discover that not all of our peers felt a shared sense of safety.”

Savannah Richardson is a 2016 graduate who was enrolled in the district’s dual-language program as a Mexican immigrant whose picture hangs on a banner over Jack Abram’s auditorium.

“For years, I believed the [school resource officer] was placed there to protect us,” Richardson said. “I was never aware information shared with the SRO would end up in the hands of ICE.”

Xavier Palacios, a Huntington school trustee who privately practices as an immigration attorney, was quoted in the Times article. He said the information sharing was between the district’s school resource officer and ICE was not done with purposeful intent to harm.

“What happened to Alex was an unfortunate series of events of unintended consequences — I don’t think anyone meant to harm him,” Palacios said. “The truth is procedures failed Alex and possibly other students and we must change that.”

But Huntington parent Josh Dubnau said he first reached out to Huntington’s administration via email with concerns about the relationship between Suffolk’s school resource officer program and ICE over the summer, following a PBS “Frontline” documentary titled “The Gang Crackdown,” regarding treatment of immigrants and suspected MS-13 members, that ran in February 2018.

After several email exchanges with Polansky, Dubnau said he was reassured the district’s students safety was protected without a loss of rights.

“My trust in you [Polansky] at that time is something I deeply regret,” Dubnau said. “This school board and administration needs to re-earn our trust and it will be a challenge for you to do so.”

 

Suffolk’s SRO program

Polansky said Huntington school district has been involved in the county police department’s school resource officer program for more than 15 years. The program places uniformed police officers inside public school buildings to serve as points of contact between the school district, its staff and students, and other law enforcement officials in order to increase school safety.

“I think the role of law enforcement in schools in today’s political climate is open to considerable debate.”

— James Polansky

“I think the role of law enforcement in schools in today’s political climate is open to considerable debate,” the superintendent said.

Polansky sits on the executive board of Suffolk County Schools Superintendents Association, an organization of school administrators representing the county’s 69 school districts. The association has repeatedly called on the police department to further expand the SRO program, most recently as part of its blueprint for enhancing school safety.

“Part of our mission is to keep schools and campuses safe,” Elwood Superintendent Kenneth Bossert said in a phone interview. Bossert is president of the county schools superintendents association. “Having a strong collaborative relationship with the police force and having officers present in the building who are familiar with the campus, familiar with emergency response plans, familiar with faculty and students, go a long way to ensure the safety of our students.”

School resource officers are employees of the police department, not the school district, and there is no formal agreement as to the position’s duties and responsibilities, according to Bossert.

“I think those folks who right now have some real concerns about the presence of police officers don’t necessarily have an understanding of that job,” he said. “If they did have a better understanding of the role and responsibilities of an SRO it would help alleviate some of the concerns being expressed in my neighboring community.”

The superintendents association has called for formal written document of an SRO officer’s “role and responsibility” dating back to a May 2018 letter sent out to Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone (D) and the police department. Still, nothing concrete has been developed as to date.

“We need clarity and guidelines. If we can’t get those, I am not comfortable having those officers in our buildings going forward.”

— Jennifer Hebert

“We need clarity and guidelines,” Huntington trustee Jennifer Hebert said. “If we can’t get those, I am not comfortable having those officers in our buildings going forward.”

There is no law mandating that school districts participate in the SRO program, according to Bossert, but he is not aware of any district that has voiced opposition to being a participant.

“I urge this board to carefully consider any decisions and weigh the long-term consequences  against the perceived short-term benefits,” said James Graber, president of the Associated Teachers of Huntington. “A year ago, there were calls for more security in this school district because of the incident in Parkland [Florida]. To move in the other direction would be a mistake.”

 

Future of SRO program in Huntington

Huntington school administrators said they’ve seen the immediate need to review its existing policies and procedures, particularly when it comes to the role of its school
resource officer.

“In light of current national and local concerns, however, we believe that we must advocate for an additional layer of organization addressing the relationship between school districts and the police department,” read the Dec. 28 letter to the community. “This can be accomplished through formulation of a memorandum of understanding.”

Huntington parents and community members came to the meeting Jan. 7 armed with a detailed list of suggestions of what should be in the proposed agreement between the school district and Suffolk’s police department.

Diana Weaving, of Huntington, presented school trustees with detailed suggestions from a concerned citizens group regarding the treatment of immigrant students and the duties of the SRO officers. It suggested the memorandum of understanding includes extensive data collection including the number of times law enforcement is called to Huntington schools, number of arrests, which arrests were school-related offense, the location and date of offense and note of the involved student’s age, race, ethnicity, gender and English language learner status.

In light of current national and local concerns, however, we believe that we must advocate for an additional layer of organization addressing the relationship between school districts and the police department.”

— Huntington school district Dec. 28 letter

Weaving requested the district provides SROs, security guards and school staff with more extensive training in cultural competency, racial bias and prejudice, and restorative justice.

Aidan Forbes, Huntington’s Class of 2018 valedictorian and member of Concerned Alumni for Protecting Our Classmates, called for more in-depth investigation of a student’s character before they are reported to an SRO along with changes to the district’s suspension policies. Zach McGinniss, also a 2018 graduate, demanded more cultural training for SROs and issued a request the school district not share student’s information with third parties — including ICE — without court order or consent of a student’s parents.

All involved called for a written contract, or memorandum of understanding, to be drafted as soon as possible. The superintendent said it will necessitate a process involving community input to draft an agreement, and it will require both Suffolk police department and the school district to come to the table. He cited some Nassau County school districts which have documents that can be used as examples, but each must be uniquely catered to each individual district.

Polansky said he envisions the proposed document could be used as a template that could be used by other Suffolk schools. Trustee Hebert agreed, saying Huntington must make every possible effort to transform the SRO system into a better program.

“I see us as being given the mandate of having to figure this out for everyone else,” Hebert said. “And we will.”

Huntington school board will further discuss the SCPD’s SRO program at their upcoming February meeting.

Pilar Moya, center, stands to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration laws at a Huntington rally this June. Photo by Eve Krief

Generous, warm and intelligent are a few of the adjectives Huntington residents use to describe one Huntington Station resident.

Pilar Moya — also known as Moya-Mancera — has dedicated her life to community activism, in particular aiding Town of Huntington residents and its Latino communities.

“I’ve always been a public servant, always,” Moya said. “That’s my passion, my love.”

“[Pilar Moya] is always standing up for what is right.”

— Eve Krief

During the day, Moya works as executive director of Greenlawn-based nonprofit Housing Help, a certified housing counseling agency that has served town residents for more than 30 years. She helps ensure the organization provides housing counseling, financial literacy, and credit and debit education for residents of Long Island. Her clients often include first-time home buyers, seniors, low-income families and people suffering with student loan debt.

Since taking leadership of the nonprofit in 2017, Moya has initiated several affordable housing counseling and advocacy programs.

“I call my agency tiny but mighty,” Moya said.

Housing Help was able to assist more than a thousand clients last fiscal year.

“That’s for the entire Suffolk County,” she said. “Our impact for the Town of Huntington was 702 clients.”

Moya brings fresh ideas, a positive spirit and drive to the agency.

“She jumps in with both feet at all times,” said Michele Martines, of Huntington. “Whatever she’s interested in or feels like is worthwhile.”

When she’s not working at Housing Help, Moya created the nonprofit Latinos Unidos en Long Island, an organization that aids Latino immigrants by assisting in obtaining and providing legal aid, support and housing help. The organization started in Huntington and rapidly expanded across Long Island.

“She is always standing up for what is right,” said Dr. Eve Krief, a Huntington pediatrician and founder of the Long Island Inclusive Communities Against Hate advocacy group.

I’ve always been a public servant, always. That’s my passion, my love.”

— Pilar Moya

Moya partnered with Krief to assist with the Families Belong Together rallies in Huntington, to protest against the immigration policies of President Donald Trump (R), including the separation of children from their mother at the border.

At the second rally held June 30, nearly 50 organizations and close to 1,000 people attended, according to Krief.

“We hope our rally displays the love and compassion we hope that America can represent as well as the hopeful and powerful nature of our democracy,” Moya said at the event. “Our message to the families separated at the border is, ‘You matter — and our voices are our extensions of yours.’”

Krief shared that she can always count on Moya for help even when she’s “doing a thousand other things.”

In addition to Housing Help and Latinos Unidos, Moya participates in many different local organizations including co-chairing the Hispanic Task Force, Suffolk County Hispanic Advisory Board, serving as a steering committee member of Huntington Township Housing Coalition, and as a member of the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

“I guess I have been blessed that I am able to do this work because I have a good team of leaders that work side by side with me,” Moya said.

St. James resident Scott Posner gives out books at St. James Elementary School. Photo by Donna Deedy

By Donna Deedy

On a gray, mid-December day, Scott Posner wheeled four cardboard boxes into the gymnasium at St. James Elementary School, just as he has done annually for the last 13 years.

“Do you know what a hero is?” he said to the 106 third-graders sitting attentively on the gym floor.  “It’s someone who makes a difference.” 

Posner said the Rotary International’s one million members assist people in need.  Some of the world’s neediest people, he added, often ask for schools. He then handed out to each child a copy of the dictionaries stacked inside his boxes, a gift from the Rotary Club of Smithtown. Feeling fortunate and inspired, the children filed back to class after leafing through their new book.

Scott’s shown me how important it is to immerse yourself in giving back.” 

— David Dircks

Posner, of St. James, is a financial planner. For the last 20 years, he’s worked for Edward Jones in its St. James office. The company encourages its advisers to be active community members. For Posner, that altruism comes naturally.

Posner founded and currently serves as president of the Deepwells Farm Historical Society.  He’s also president of the St. James Chamber of Commerce and past president of the Rotary Club of Smithtown. Each year, he prepares and promotes events such as parades, street fairs, outdoor concerts, a haunted house, Christmas parties and a winter gala. He also raises funds for Angela’s House, a Hauppauge-based charity that provides assistance to medically fragile and terminally ill children and their families.

More than a decade ago, Deepwells Farm, a county-owned historic property on North Country Road in St. James, fell into disrepair. Posner took action.

“The place was left to rot, but Scott formed a foundation to save the structure,” said Howard Essenfeld, treasurer for Deepwells Farm Historical Society. The site serves as an important hub for community events.

For the last 11 years, acoustic musicians have performed for a live audience in the farm’s parlor. The recorded live broadcasts ultimately became the  No. 1 acoustic music podcast on iTunes.

I don’t mind fighting to get money for St. James and Deepwells, but I find myself working harder knowing that someone like Scott is keeping an eye on things”

— Rob Trotta

“Scott’s shown me how important it is to immerse yourself in giving back,” said David Dircks, the program producer. He credits Posner for getting permission from county officials to use the site as a music venue. 

“I don’t mind fighting to get money for St. James and Deepwells, but I find myself working harder knowing that someone like Scott is keeping an eye on things,” said Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga).

An East Northport native, Posner moved to St. James in 1995 with his wife, Debby Fiorella Posner.  She attended the same elementary school where he now delivers dictionaries to third-graders. They have two daughters: Rebecca, a junior at SUNY Geneseo, and Julianna, a senior at Smithtown East High School.

After his wife was diagnosed and treated for cancer, Posner pedaled 532 miles from Manhattan to Niagara Falls with four comrades to raise $18,225 for the Roswell Park Cancer Center. 

“I could not be more thankful for the incredible leaps in cancer treatment that directly benefited us,” he stated in a 2018 Facebook post. “Many people’s past contributions made those breakthroughs possible. Now it’s our time to fund research for the next generation of warriors that will face the challenge of cancer.”

His wife, Posner said, may participate in the seven-day Empire State Ride next summer.

“This is what Scott does,” said Laura Endres, president of the Rotary Club of Smithtown, a sponsor for Posner’s ride. “He’s just a wonderful human being.”

Dix Hills resident Linda Beigel Schulman, second from left, and Commack resident Paul Guttenberg, third from left, at a rally together in summer in 2018. Photo from Ellyn Guttenberg

On a holiday to celebrate love in all its forms, two Suffolk County families’ worlds were forever shattered upon hearing their loved ones were killed in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Dix Hills resident Linda Beigel Schulman learned that her son, Scott, a geography teacher was killed while attempting to lock his classroom door after holding it open for students fleeing from the gunman. Scott Beigel, 35, had only been teaching at Parkland for six months.

Paul Guttenberg, of Commack, recalled waiting for news that his 14-year-old niece, Jaime, was safely home from school, but his hope turned to despair when he received news she was one of the victims who was fatally shot.

I remember hearing about mass shootings on the news, but you never think you’ll be so affected until you are. This can happen to anyone and anywhere.”

— Paul Guttenberg

“How could this have happened,” he said at a March rally. “I remember hearing about mass shootings on the news, but you never think you’ll be so affected until you are. This can happen to anyone and anywhere. This could happen here to us, and it already happened to me.”

Both Beigel Schulman and Guttenberg have worked hard to make the best of a tragic situation and in doing so they have been transformed in the process.

“I have the deepest respect and admiration for Linda, who while coping with unspeakable sorrow, has channeled her emotions and energy into becoming a forceful voice for reasonable gun control,” Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) said.

For their efforts in turning personal tragedy into action, TBR News Media is recognizing both Beigel Schulman and Guttenberg as 2018 People of the Year.

Throughout 2018, these two individuals have spoken out publicly and have met with federal, state and local officials to advocate for stricter gun control measures. Beigel Schulman and Guttenberg are familiar faces in the offices and staff members of U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) and the Huntington town board.

“[Linda] has implored legislators to ban automatic weapons and require background checks for all gun ownership and to pass the Red Flag Law in New York State,” Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “She has and will continue to make a difference.”

“[Linda] has and will continue to make a difference.”

—Mark Cuthbertson

Beigel Schulman and Guttenberg came together July 29 in Huntington Station’s Breezy Park to speak at a gun control rally before a crowd of more than 600 people. Each took a turn at the podium to call for stricter gun control measures and encourage youth voter participation in the upcoming November elections.

“People ask me, ‘What can we do to support you?’” Beigel Schulman said July 29. “My answer is so simple: Make sure you get out and vote.”

Guttenberg’s wife, Ellyn, said it has taken a lot of courage and determination for her husband to step forward into the public spotlight following Parkland.

“Paul was not a public speaker,” she said. “It was very hard for him in the beginning, but it’s something he’s very passionate about.”

The ability of both Beigel Schulman and Guttenberg to move forward and attempt to make a difference, while being level headed, is a feature many elected officials applauded them for. Others have called their actions inspirational.

“Someday we will win this fight to have common sense gun violence prevention laws passed. Linda will be one of the proud drivers of that success,” Suozzi said. “She inspires me!”

Mark Cronin and his son, John, fourth and fifth from the left, are joined by John’s Crazy Socks employees as they present a donation to a Special Olympics representative to celebrate the company’s second anniversary. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A Huntington father-son duo show the business world how accepting people’s differences as strengths can form a road map to success.

Mark Cronin and his son, John, have found the secret ingredient to happiness is socks. The pair started John’s Crazy Socks by offering 31 wacky styles of socks in December 2016 and have since grown to become an international seller offering more than 2,300 different styles.

John and his father Mark Cronin smile. Photo from Mark Cronin

The company started with an idea from John Cronin, a 22-year-old entrepreneur diagnosed with Down syndrome, who was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life after graduating from Huntington High School. Together, with his father, they built a business based on social enterprise.

“We have a simple mission of spreading happiness,” the father said. “Spreading happiness comes from doing things for other people.”

The Melville-based company currently has 35 full-time employees, 18 of whom are neurotypically different, according to the owners. To keep up with holiday demand, John’s Crazy Socks hired an additional 27 seasonal workers largely from the Town of Huntington, 23 of whom have different abilities.

“If we can have 35 permanent employees, why not 350?” Mark Cronin said. “There’s 80 percent of the disabled population that is unemployed. Yet they’re ready, willing and able to work.”

Dozens of employees dressed in Santa hats helped customers pick out socks, pulled orders from the warehouse and rang up sales at the company’s 2nd anniversary and holiday pop-up shop Dec. 8.

“With all the people with disabilities, it’s not disabilities anymore — it’s abilities,” David McGowan, a retired speech pathologist from North Babylon, said. “It’s beautiful to see them working in a place like this.”

The co-owners have built an atmosphere of inclusion where each workday starts with a 15-minute briefing at 9:30 a.m. for all employees. Each Wednesday, there’s a bagel breakfast and on Fridays a staff luncheon.

“It’s not enough to just sell stuff. You have to have a mission, a purpose and give back.”

— Mark Cronin

“Our employees make our business go each and every day,” Cronin said.“ We’re out there competing with Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target; yet we beat them in completing orders and shipping. They do a great job. There is no charity here.”

Well, that’s not completely true. Since launching the business, the father-son duo has held true to their pledge to donate 5 percent of the company’s earnings to the Special Olympics as the younger Cronin has competed in the program as an athlete since age 5. The co-owners celebrated the company’s second year in business by presenting a check for $49,751.25 to a Special Olympics representative.

“It’s unheard of and it’s something all corporations should start doing,” Kim Brown, of Huntington, said. “And he’s done it since the very beginning.”

Her husband, Dave, agreed with her.

“That should be the American mission,” he said.

In addition, John’s Crazy Socks has created a line of sock designs whose sales help benefit different charities including the National Down Syndrome Society and the Autism Society of America.

“It’s not enough to just sell stuff,” Mark Cronin said. “You have to have a mission, a purpose and give back.”

Through November 2018, the co-owners said the business has donated more than $200,000 to their charity partners in a little less than two years.

John Cronin smiles with a customer during a home delivery. Photo from Mark Cronin

It’s not enough to donate money, according to the father, as they also frequently open up their warehouse to Long Island school districts and social service agencies. The pair goes out on speaking engagements to share their vision, business model and hopefully inspire others under the U.S. State Department’s speaker’s bureau.

“John and his father have made this successful because of how much they care about other people,” Patricia Klee said.

Klee, who was John’s former speech therapist at Huntington High School, said she will be bringing her current students to his company for a work-study experience this spring. The company opens its doors and provides an “invaluable” hands-on learning experience for the students.

In the coming year, the father and son have announced the company is rapidly outgrowing its Melville warehouse and is looking to expand to a new location, hopefully in Huntington or Huntington Station. They are looking for a site that will allow them to have offices, a storeroom, a studio for John’s social media videos, a storefront to sell their socks and hopefully a cafe. On their wish list is also space for an auditorium or presentation space that can be used by the community.

“They’ve always put other people first,” said Erica Murphy-Jensen, one of John’s former teachers at Huntington High School. “They’ve always taken care of others.”

Town moves forward with design, engineering for Lake Avenue despite uncertainty of future site hookup

A plan for what Lake Avenue would look like post-revitalization. Photos from the Lake Avenue renovation capital project report, prepared by the Smithtown Planning Department

Town of Smithtown officials aren’t willing to risk wasting any time, so they are forging ahead with plans to sewer downtown St. James.

Smithtown town board voted unanimously Dec. 11 to issue a request for proposals for engineers to plan and design a sewer system for the Lake Avenue Business District this coming January. Three days later, the town hired Bohemia-based engineering firm P.W. Grosser Consulting to prepare the documents needed to do so.

We’re on a tight leash with the engineering for sewer projects to be ready to go in summer 2019.”

— Ed Wehrheim

“We’re on a tight leash with the engineering for sewer projects to be ready to go in summer 2019,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “If we waited another two weeks, we’d be pushing back our timeline.”

Town officials are hoping to have the plans and funding necessary to sewer Lake Avenue’s business district by next summer, which the $2.4 million replacement of St. James’ aging water mains is slated for, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. Replacement of the business district’s water mains has already been delayed once by the town with a desire to complete both infrastructural projects at the same time while the roads are ripped up.

“We are going to sewer because we are opening the ground already,” Garguilo said. “We don’t want to put residents through the inconvenience twice.”

Smithtown officials will need to have these design and engineering plans in hand and submitted, as well as other necessary documentation, in order to receive the $3.9 million grant from the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a nonspecific discretionary pot of funding for municipal assistance, announced by New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in October.

“We don’t want to put residents through the inconvenience twice.”

— Nicole Garguilo

The town does not have any official agreement with developer Gyrodyne LLC, according to Garguilo, to access the sewage treatment facility it has proposed building as part of its plans for the Flowerfield property in St. James. The developer has proposed plans to construct a 150-room hotel with a restaurant and day spa, two medical office buildings and a 220-unit assisted living complex. It is currently completing the final environmental review to present to the town’s planning board for approval.

“If we need to, we’ll find another sewer plant, hook into Kings Park or another pump station,” Garguilo said.

Many St. James business people and civic leaders have stated while they are excited by the prospect of sewers, they were also aware that construction, both the tearing and replacing of sidewalks and asphalt, could disrupt existing businesses. Wehrheim said the town could plan to doing the work in sections, separated by the connecting streets all the way down Lake Avenue.

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

Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James, previously stated the civic group believes the community will benefit more from construction.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police Major Case Unit detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash in which a Huntington Station bicyclist was struck by a Suffolk County Police vehicle.

Two Suffolk County Police officers  in a marked police unit traveling northbound on New York Avenue, north of May Street, struck a man riding a bicycle across New York  Avenue from east to west at approximately 5:10 p.m. The officers were responding to a call and had their emergency lights operating, according to police.

The bicyclist, Miguel Angel Gaitan, 64, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital via Suffolk County Police helicopter with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. The two officers were transported to Huntington Hospital for evaluation and released.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check.

Anyone with information on this crash is requested to contact Major Case unit detectives at 631-852-6555.

U.S. Eastern District Court of New York. Photo from Facebook

A Huntington resident will be spending time in prison after admitting to racketeering while in charge of Long Island’s most infamous crime family.

John “Johnny Boy” Ambrosio, 75, the acting captain in the organized crime family La Cosa Nostra was sentenced Dec. 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to 51 months in jail for taking part in a racketeering conspiracy. He previously pled guilty in May.

Ambrosio was among the last of seven associates of La Cosa Nostra to be sentenced in connection for the racketeering conspiracy, which included acts of drug trafficking, loan sharking, gambling and obstruction of justice.

There should be no doubt that putting a stop to the criminal activities of La Cosa Nostra continues to be a priority of this office and our law enforcement partners,.”

— Richard Donoghue

“There should be no doubt that putting a stop to the criminal activities of La Cosa Nostra continues to be a priority of this office and our law enforcement partners,” Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said.

Ambrosio and his co-conspirators —including Anthony Rodolico, 46, of Huntington — were arrested by federal law enforcement officials Dec. 12, 2017 after federal officers executed search warrants at various locations, including a storage facility in Nassau County, where they found gambling and loan sharking records, electronic gaming machines, narcotics and drug paraphernalia and numerous firearms, including two AR-15 rifles, a .38 caliber revolver and a sawed-off shotgun, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Law enforcement officials also found letters addressed to Ambrosio from the Bonanno family boss Michael “The Nose” Mancuso and former Gambino family boss John Gotti.

“Organized crime continues to plague our communities with violence, coercion, and intimidation,” William Sweeney Jr, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said. “The mobsters grow richer while their victims live in fear as they struggle to make payments while dealing with daily threats.”

Prosecutors said they believe Ambrosio and his associates engaged in a racketeering conspiracy from January 2014 to December 2017. In entering his guilty plea, Ambrosio admitted to participating in the Gambino family’s activities by extorting a loan from one victim and supervising a gambling business that involved poker games, electronic gaming machines and sports betting, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Under the terms of his plea deal, he will forfeit $100,000, including $66,116 in cash that was seized from his Huntington home at the time of his arrest.

His associate Rodolico was also sentenced Nov. 5 to one year in prison.