Community

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Author Kathy Greene Lahey signs a copy of her book during an event in Port Jeff. Photo by Alex Petroski

In an environment of newfound societal emphasis on empowering women, a Port Jefferson resident has some useful tips.

Kathy Greene Lahey, who has lived in the village for 13 years and founded the political activism group Long Island Rising, published her first book titled “Taking Flight for Girls Going Places,” which she bills as a guide “to help keep independence-bound girls safe, empowered and free.”

A survivor of gender-related abuses as a teenager from catcalling to stalking to sexual assault who also required a stint in addiction recovery at age 24 to deal with alcohol and drug abuse, Greene Lahey said she feels like she was put on earth to work on this project. She also played a leadership role in establishing the 2017 and 2018 women’s marches that took place in Port Jefferson Station to coincide with national marches in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. The mother of three said she got the idea to author a manual for young women six years ago.

“Last October I said, ‘Either you write the book or throw it in the garbage, because the universe will give it to somebody else.'”

— Kathy Greene Lahey

“My daughter, when she was a teenager, started to get into a lot of trouble and she was running away,” said the licensed social worker, recalling events that occurred more than a decade prior with her daughter, who is now 30. “At the same time, I started taking karate with my sons and earned my black belt, and then I got certified in a couple of other self-defense programs. I realized I was learning all of this great information and I wished that my daughter had it, so I ended up starting to do ‘taking flight’ safety programs for adolescent girls at libraries [and] workshops.”

The program eventually transformed into a book idea, which got off the ground in October 2017.

“Last October I said, ‘Either you write the book or throw it in the garbage, because the universe will give it to somebody else,’” she said, explaining that a divorce and life getting in the way sapped some of her focus on the idea. “This has been really cathartic [for] me.”

Her timing ended up being perfect. As society has drastically shifted in a relatively short period of time in the way it responds to credible accusations of sexual abuse, a by-product of the global #MeToo social media movement that organically materialized as a way for survivors of abuse to share stories and show solidarity, Greene Lahey’s message is being delivered at an ideal moment for mass receipt. It also coincides with a staggering number of women set to take their first run at political office this November.

“I’ve been active trying to get things going for a long time, so I’m in my zone right now because people are responding and taking responsibility for their vote, their citizenship,” she said. “It’s so empowering when people are coming out and saying, ‘Yes, this happened to me.’ But the thing is that I’ve spoken to a lot of young women who are like, ‘Oh great, you showed us the problem, but what’s the solution?’ And this book is part of the solution.”

The book has more than 1,600 tips for preventing violence, from advice about abusive relationships to tangible self-defense strategies for violent situations.

“It’s so empowering when people are coming out and saying, ‘Yes, this happened to me.’”

— Kathy Greene Lahey

The author also said now is the perfect time to keep the focus on empowerment going. Greene Lahey, whose book can be purchased on Amazon, said she is also available for groups who would like for her to share her message with young women.

“In order for it to last, we need to teach the next generation to do that, and that’s what ‘Taking Flight for Girls Going Places’ is,” she said. “It’s really about teaching girls to take responsibility for their safety and their life.”

Her friends shared a similar sentiment that, based on her life experience, Greene Lahey seemed born to publish this book in this particular moment.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Barbara Lyon said about the book during an event to celebrate the publication at Port Jefferson Village Center April 15, while recalling something her friend of 15 years said to her. “‘I’m writing all this stuff down because I think it’s important,’ and to put it all together as a book — it’s a great time for it to come out.”

Lyon, among several other friends of the author who attended the event, expressed excitement about being able to give the book to the young women in their lives.

“I bought it for my niece,” said Mary Balslove, a friend of Greene Lahey’s for 25 years. “She’s in college and I thought, ‘It’s the perfect thing for her.”’

Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

MEET SIMBA!

Say hello to Simba! Open your heart to this sweet 3-year-old couch potato and you will have a friend for life. Currently waiting for adoption at Kent Animal Shelter, this adorable guy loves human companionship and is a huge lap cat. Some of his favorite things are scratch pads, watching birds and squirrels out the window and sitting on your lap while you watch TV or read. He is a little shy at first but very quick to warm up. Simba comes neutered, microchipped and is up to date on all his vaccines. 

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. For more information on Simba and other adoptable pets at Kent, visit www.kentanimalshelter.com or call 631-727-5731. 

 

May vote will also feature $32M bond proposition for district wide capital projects

Comsewogue school board President John Swenning and Superintendent Joe Rella, along with the rest of the board and administration, have begun 2018-19 budget preparations. File photo by Alex Petroski

Taxpayers in Comsewogue School District have two important choices to make at the polls May 15.

The board of education unanimously adopted its proposed $91,947,730 budget for the 2018-19 school year during an April 12 meeting. The board also voted back in March to add a second proposition to the ballot to seek permission from the community to borrow $32 million over a 15-year span, with about $3 million in interest, to execute more than 100 repairs and upgrade projects across the district’s six buildings.

If passed, next year’s budget would be about $2 million more than the current year, with contractual, retirement and health insurance increases for faculty and staff being the primary driver of the increase. The higher costs will be covered in large part by a 2.2 percent tax levy increase, a 3.2 percent increase in state aid, and a slight reduction in full-time employees due to several retirements.

Bond

$32 million

$3 million in interest

15-year life

Would fund upgrades at all six district buildings

The district has also placed an emphasis on security, budgeting for additional security guards and mental health support services. The budget for buildings and grounds staff, comprised of custodial workers, security guards and maintenance workers, was increased by 7.5 percent for 2018-19.

The district’s stated budgeting goal based on its public presentation provided by Assistant Superintendent for Business Susan Casali is to “develop a school district budget that is taxpayer sensitive and aligns with the district student learning objectives.”

Casali will be publicly presenting the adopted budget a total of six times, with Saturday, April 21, at JFK Middle School at 9 a.m. being the next opportunity for district residents to catch it.

The bond proposal and list of projects came at the recommendation of the district’s Facilities Committee, a group of 21 professionals from across the Comsewogue community including members of the board, administrators, architects, engineers, former teachers and civic association members assembled in early January and tasked with presenting recommendations to the board. It will need to be approved as a separate proposition from the standard 2018-19 operating budget.

“The proposed facility improvements preserve the integrity of the school buildings, address repairs, improve instructional resources for all and upgrade athletic facilities,” district administration said in a statement.

Budget

2018-19 total: $91,947,730

2.2% tax levy increase

3.2% more in state aid

School board President John Swenning said during a March meeting the bond proposal was the result of hard work and community input.

“I just want to say thank you to the Facilities Committee that spent a lot of time going through our buildings,” he said. “This bond was brought to us from the community members. They found what they felt needs to be addressed and they came and presented it to the board. We’re going to accept it just as the committee has submitted it to us.”

The district has made a concerted effort to inform voters about the contents of the bond, filming and disseminating an informational YouTube video featuring Superintendent Joe Rella, mailing brochures to residents, and hosting several public presentations at district buildings as well as before the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association.

Some of the projects include required upgrades to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; repairing parking lots and sidewalks; adding security vestibules at all of the district buildings; fixes to exterior and interior building infrastructure; improving athletic fields and facilities; and kitchen upgrades. Some of the higher-priced projects included in the committee’s recommendation are: a new roof with solar panels at Terryville Road Elementary School; interior work at John F. Kennedy Middle School, including some classroom and hallway renovations; and upgrades to the high school concession stand building. If passed, the average taxpayer would see an increase of about $120 annually to their school tax bill, according to the district.

An artistic rendering of the proposed development on Elwood Orchard site along Jericho Turnpike. Rendering from Villadom Corp

Town of Huntington officials have decided to use the public hearing on contentious plans for a proposed Elwood mall as the trial run for taking town board meetings on the road.

Huntington Town board members voted 4-1 to reschedule public comments on the proposed Villadom Mall to a May 17 town board session that will be held at Elwood Middle School.

“This will be our test case,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said.

Lupinacci, during his 2017 campaign for town office, had proposed rotating where town board meetings are held in attempt to increase accessibility to residents. He said he felt the strong community interest in developer Villadom Corp’s proposal to construct a 486,380-square foot mall with mixed retail and office space on Jericho Turnpike in Elwood provided a good opportunity to try relocating.

“I once again stand in strong opposition to the Villadom project…”
— Steve Stern

“The middle school auditorium has more seating,” the supervisor said. “I am sure it will be a long hearing of several hours of comments.”

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) was the sole vote against relocating the Villadom hearing, citing security concerns and potential confusion for concerned residents.

Many area residents voiced their opinions on the proposed mall at the April 10 town board meeting. The first among them was former Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills).

“I once again stand in strong opposition to the Villadom project and overdevelopment in our area which will have a tremendously adverse impact on the aquifer, already heavy traffic and the quality of life,” Stern said.

He said the Suffolk County Legislature previously voted against Orchard Park, a prior proposal to build 360 luxury apartments in addition to retail and office space, on the same site as Elwood Orchard, Villadom’s proposed project.

“There are doomsday predictions of traffic counts, megamalls and tax breaks that are non-existent.”
— Robert Rocklein

Robert Rocklein, a member of the civic group Huntington Matters, said he is supportive of Villadom’s plans.

“I see the glass as half full, not half empty,” he said. “I see a lot of benefits that could be bestowed on the community.”

Rocklein said he believes residents’ fears of the mixed-use project have been created by information circulating on social media. He once viewed a similar development in Short Hills, New Jersey whose tenants he said have given more than $1 million a year to community organizations and groups.

“There are doomsday predictions of traffic counts, megamalls and tax breaks that are non-existent,” Rocklein said. “Elwood school district stands to have the most to gain, but also the most to lose.”

An online petition started against the proposed Villadom Mall has gathered more than 4,000 signatures in the last three weeks. Residents have voiced concerns about the potential environmental impact of the development’s storm water runoff on drinking water as well as potentially increased traffic on Jericho Turnpike, Old Country and Deer Park roads.

The Greater Huntington Civic Group, a nonprofit organization of multiple civic associations in the Town of Huntington, will be hosting a public meeting with the developer April 18 at 7 p.m. prior to the town hearing. The event will be held at the Huntington Moose Lodge, located at 631 Pulaski Road in Greenlawn.

Madison's Niche will be a part of the festivities on April 19.

Grand Openings Stroll

The Stony Brook Village Center, 111 Main Street, Stony Brook, in conjunction with The Three Village Chamber of Commerce, will present a Grand Openings Stroll on Thursday, April 19 (rescheduled) with a noon kickoff.

Five new businesses, beginning with Madison’s Niche (owner Karen McAvoy) at noon, Camera Concepts (owner Jeff Norwood) at 12:15 p.m., Cervo Design (owner Andrea Cervo) at 12:30 p.m., Village Florist (owner Amanda Haggquist) at 12:45 p.m. and ending with Sweet Mama’s Restaurant (owner Marios Patatinis) at 1 p.m., will celebrate their grand opening with a ribbon cutting. 

The community is invited to join Stony Brook Village Center President Gloria Rocchio; Chairman Richard Rugen; trustees and town officials including, Legislator Kara Hahn, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright; Supervisor Ed Romaine; and Andrew Polan, president, Three Village Chamber of Commerce in wishing all the businesses good luck in their new venture. 

The afternoon will conclude with free champagne and pub bites in Grandpa’s Shed Lounge located at the rear of Sweet Mama’s. For more information, call 631-751-2244 or visit www.stonybrookvillagecenter.com.

Lee Koppelman, right is presented with a replica of the sign that will mark a nature preserve dedicated in his honor, by Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. Photo by Alex Petroski

A public servant with more than four decades of planning experience now has a nature preserve with his name on it to honor his life’s work.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) hosted a ceremony at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket April 13 to dedicate a 46-acre parcel of woodlands in Stony Brook in honor of Lee Koppelman, who served as the first Suffolk County planner, a position he held for 28 years. He also served as regional planner for Suffolk and Nassau counties for 41 years.

“When you come to talk about preserving land; when you come to talk about planning communities; when you come to talk about vision; when you come to talk about master planners and you put that with Suffolk County, only one name comes up,” Romaine said of Koppelman. “When I look at the picture of the woods that will be named for Dr. Koppelman I can think of no better tribute to this man … Suffolk is in a large part what it is today because of this man’s vision, our master planner.”

Romaine lauded Koppelman for his dedication to preserving nature, including shoreline, wooded areas, wetlands and more. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who served on the Suffolk County Legislature along with Romaine in the 1980s when Koppelman was also working for the county, repeatedly used the word “bold” in thanking Koppelman for his dedication.

“Suffolk is in a large part what it is today because of [Lee Koppelman’s] vision, our master planner.”

— Ed Romaine

“We had a master planner with a vision for this county that was daring and bold and unprecedented for any county in the United States,” Englebright said. “To set aside parkland — not like little pieces of confetti, but as whole sections of ecosystems and landscape segments — bold ideas. Not only was Dr. Koppleman the master planner, he was a master administrator. He hired extraordinary planners, talented people to serve with him.”

According to a press release from the town, Koppelman is regarded as the father of sustainability on Long Island, calling him the first of the “power players” to conceptualize the idea of preserving space in the interest of health and future generations. The Lee Koppelman Preserve is a heavily wooded parcel with a variety of deciduous tree and shrub species, or foliage that sheds its leaves annually. The town has owned the Stony Brook property just east of Nicolls Road and south of Stony Brook University, for about 45 years, using it as passive open space.

Cartright said she was honored to be a part of the dedication to such a prominent figure who had an impact on her district.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much time to work with Dr. Koppleman as it relates to land use and planning, but it is clear to me he has left an indelible mark here within our community,” she said.

Koppelman joked that he wished the ceremony didn’t sound so much like a eulogy, though he said he was honored to be recognized by people he had considered friends for so long.

“Having that from them is a particular pleasure,” he said.

His wife Connie Koppelman was also in attendance and joked she had heard her husband honored so many times it was getting old, but called it very pleasing to hear once again how much his work was appreciated by those around him.

Koppelman currently heads the Center for Regional Policy Studies at Stony Brook University.

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Volunteers at last year's spring cleanup at the Stony Brook railroad station. Photo from Kara Hahn's office

The Greening of 25A Committee and Setauket Harbor Task Force are looking for volunteers.

The Greening of 25A Committee

On April 21, The Greening of 25A Committee will hold its annul spring cleanup at the Stony Brook railroad station. The event is scheduled from 8 to 11 a.m. and will be held rain or shine.

The committee needs volunteers to trim bushes, pick up trash, rake leaves, weed, spread mulch, plant flowers and sweep salt, sand and dirt. Bagels and coffee will be provided by Bagel Express.

For more information, call Legislator Kara Hahn’s (D-Setauket) office at 631-854-1650.

Setauket Harbor Task Force

The Setauket Harbor Task Force is looking for volunteers to help the organization collect water quality data.

Twice each month from May to October, the task force will head out from Port Jefferson Harbor at sunrise to collect data at 10 sites in Port Jefferson Harbor, Setauket Harbor and the Narrows near Conscience Bay.

Each monitoring trip will run about three hours, and volunteers can participate at whatever level they are comfortable. Training and equipment will be provided.

For more information, contact George Hoffman at 631-786-6699 or email the task force at setauketharbortaskforce@gmail.com.

HOPE ‘SPRINGS’ ETERNAL

Alyssa Cutler took this photo of a forsythia branch in Port Jefferson on April 2. She writes,  ‘[This was taken] right after the snow stopped on April 2. This is what Long Islanders are about. Strong backs to weather storms, eternally hopeful and rejoicing in the beauty around us. Also, we smile a lot more in the spring and summer!’

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com.

Kings Park Food Drive

The Kings Park Knights of Columbus will hold its annual food drive on Saturday, April 21 and Sunday, April 22 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 44 Church St., Kings Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Donations will support the needs of local families. Canned and packaged food such as cereal, pasta, peanut butter, jelly, soup, baby food, pancake mix and juice boxes are needed. To arrange a different date for drop-off, please call Bob at 631-724-1410.

In November, state Sen. Ken LaValle gave his blessing to a feasibility study for the electrification of the Port Jefferson LIRR line east of Huntington. File photo

A Smithtown resident will take the lead in determining the future of the Long Island Rail Road.
Phillip Eng was appointed the next president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s LIRR April 12 by MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota and MTA Managing Director Ronnie Hakim.

“Phil has shown exceptional leadership and dedication during his time at the MTA, and I know he will bring his enthusiasm for developing a world-class transportation system to the LIRR,” Lhota said.

“As a Smithtown resident and Suffolk County native, Phil Eng understands the importance of transportation on Long Island.”

— Steve Bellone

Eng will take over for Patrick Nowakowski, who served as LIRR president for nearly four years. He submitted his resignation less than a month after the LIRR had its worst on-time performance in the last 18 years, according to a March 15 report released by the Office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in March. The report had found that nearly 21,400 trains were delayed, cancelled or terminated in 2017; a 20 percent increase from 2016.

“As millions of commuters can attest, the performance of the Long Island Rail Road has become unacceptable,” DiNapoli said in a March statement. “On-time performance has fallen to the lowest level in nearly two decades, hurting riders. While Amtrak was a big factor behind the deterioration in service last year, the LIRR was responsible for more than twice as many delays.”

Eng first joined the MTA in March 2017 when he was appointed its chief operating officer. His role as chief operating officer was leading major initiatives across all of the MTA’s agencies, particularly with a focus on using innovation and technology to modernize the transportation systems and improve customer reliability, according to the MTA. From October 2017 to January 2018, he held the position of acting president at New York City Transit.

“The LIRR couldn’t have a found a more qualified person for this role,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a statement. “As a Smithtown resident and Suffolk County native, Phil Eng understands the importance of transportation on Long Island.”

“My life’s work has centered on conceptualizing the best possible options to make transportation options more reliable.”

— Phil Eng

He is now expected to use his 35 years of experience in the New York State’s transportation sector to get the LIRR’s performance back on track. Prior to joining the MTA, Eng started his career with New York State Department of Transportation in 1983 as a junior engineer. He worked his way up, rising through the ranks to become the state DOT’s executive deputy commissioner. While there, Eng was responsible for delivering on the $2.5 billion annual capital construction program and was involved in the environmental impact study on the LIRR Mainline Expansion Project.

“My life’s work has centered on conceptualizing the best possible options to make transportation options more reliable, allowing commuters to get where they need to go safely and quickly,” Eng said in a statement. “I am honored to be chosen to lead the LIRR and its team of talented women and men as we work together to make the daily experience on the trains a better one.”

In his new position, Eng will be expected to manage several major infrastructural changes underway on the LIRR including the Double Track Project, which adds a second track to the Ronkonkoma branch between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma stations and is scheduled for completion later this year. He will also be expected to implement the Performance Improvement Plan, unveiled March 19, which aims to improve the LIRR’s service reliability, seasonal preparedness and communications with its customers. Public calls from elected officials to expand electrification on the Port Jefferson line east of the Huntington station, a long sought technological improvement, are also intensifying.

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