Politics

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio surrounding by council members leading after his last town board meeting.

Smithtown residents crowded the town board meeting room to standing room only, trailing down the staircase, waiting patiently in line for one last chance to speak. The three-minute limit for public speakers forgotten, as they came to say farewell and thank you to Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R).

Vecchio led his last town board meeting Dec. 12 marking the end of his 40 years in office.

“Supervisor Vecchio, today is certainly a historic occasion,” said Brad Harris, town historian and former councilman for 12 years. “You’ve been my supervisor for 40 years. That fact in itself is remarkable and historic as it makes you the longest serving supervisor in our town’s history, probably in the state, and probably in the nation … you’ve made Smithtown a model for others to follow.”

Many former town employees, former council members, politicians and residents could recall distinctly the first time they met Vecchio, some dating back to when he first took office in 1978.

“I met him 40 years ago when he was first running for election, I did not vote for him,” admitted Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R-St. James). “I’m sorry I did not because the supervisor, along with the help of the town boards along the way, made this the best town in the United States.”

Suffolk County legislators Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) presented Vecchio with a county proclamation for his work.

“You have always done what you thought was right for the people,” Kennedy said. “I am proud you have been my supervisor. I know you will stay involved. I know you will put your two cents in at every opportunity you get and I am glad.”

“The best measure is: Did you leave the town better than those before you? The answer is absolutely yes.”

— Mike Fitzpatrick

Trotta noted that as the supervisor leaves office the Town of Smithtown is not in debt, but rather has a budgetary surplus.

“This town is in such good financial shape, it is all because of you,” he said. “You should be a model for every other town in the country, the nation, the state and certainly in this county.”

More than a few suggested to Vecchio if he was not interested in retiring, he could offer his services as a budgetary consultant to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

“Your service to Smithtown has been honorable and you are notoriously thrifty,” said Amy Fortunato, a Smithtown resident who campaigned unsuccessfully for a seat on town board this November.

Others lauded his focus on residents and tenacity in solving issues affecting Smithtown.

“Seniors are important and are often the forgotten ones,” said Rose Palazzolo, a St. James resident and president of the town’s Senior Center. “You have never forgotten the seniors.”

Even residents who found themselves at odds with Vecchio came forward to express their respect for his years of service.

“We didn’t always agree on things, in fact we disagreed a heck of a lot more than we agreed on things,” said Tony Tanzi, president of Kings Park Chamber of Commerce. “I always respected his opinion, and I know in my heart he always truly believed in what he was doing and put the town first.”

Tanzi noted that Vecchio would always be remembered as Mr. Supervisor.

Those who served on Smithtown town board over the years remembered Vecchio as a mentor with conviction.

“There are two figures in my life who have had the most influence in my political career, one of course is my father, and the other is you,” said state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James).

“I want you to know that I have big shoes to fill, and I’m fully aware of that.”

— Ed Wehrheim

During his time in town office, Fitzpatrick said he recalls that the only victory he ever had against Vecchio on policies was the installation of a water slide at the pools in Smithtown Landing Country Club.

“The best measure is: Did you leave the town better than those before you?,” he said. “The answer is absolutely yes.”

Former town Councilwoman Pat Biancaniello laughed slightly, saying she never got a victory against Vecchio while in office but sometimes managed to get him to shift, or slide, opinions.

“Even though we’ve had differences and you didn’t take me from crayons to perfume, you took me from budgets to environment …” Biancaniello said, tearfully referencing the movie “To Sir, with Love.” “I want to thank you for how much you meant to me.”

Councilman Tom McCarthy (R-St. James) who served alongside Vecchio as deputy town supervisor, recalled making a $25 donation to his campaign for supervisor when he was only a town park employee.

“Thank you for allowing me to serve with you as a councilman for 20 years,” McCarthy said. “Thank you. I love you.”

Supervisor-elect and current Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R-Kings Park) beat Vecchio in the Republican primary in September, ending his 40-year reign, did wish him a fond retirement.

“I want you to know that I have big shoes to fill, and I’m fully aware of that,” Wehrheim said. “I intend to do my best to do that. It’s my hope you frequent town hall any time you want. Hopefully, you are a frequent visitor and take my calls when I need your guidance.”

A screenshot of Huntington Supervisor-elect Chad Lupinacci's transition team website Dec. 6.

The Town of Huntington’s first major change of leadership in more than 20 years is getting underway.

Huntington’s Supervisor-elect Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) announced the launch of the New Direction Transition Team website Nov. 30, for individuals interested in applying for town personnel openings during the transition period.

“In an attempt to keep the hiring process transparent and evaluate all options in personnel matters, I have launched the New Direction Transition Team website,” Lupinacci said in a press statement.

The website, www.Chad2017.com, was inspired by similar ones constructed by recent presidential administrations and Nassau County Executive-elect Laura Curran (D), according to spokesman Brian Finnegan. Those interested may submit a cover letter and resume, then select from more than 15 town departments for which they are interested in working. There are no plans at this time to list specific job openings or descriptions, according to Finnegan. Applicants will not be asked for their political party affiliation.

“Regardless of party affiliation, the supervisor-elect plans on vetting and considering all qualified candidates based on merit,” Finnegan said. “He takes great pride in the fact he’s worked beneath several bipartisan administrations.”

At the town’s unveiling of Huntington Station community center plans Nov. 25, Lupinacci spoke about how his first public service position was working as a laborer under former town Highway Supervisor William Naughton (D). He left the town to become a communications liaison for late Republican State Assemblyman Jim Conte, who represented the 10th district for 24 years. Lupinacci was elected to his first political office in 2012, when he took over Conte’s vacated seat.

“Now, no matter your party affiliation or vote at the ballot box, is the time to work together, get things done, check politics at the door and put people first,” reads Lupinacci’s transition website.

The state assemblyman defeated Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) receiving nearly 54 percent of the votes. He takes office Jan. 1 from resigning Supervisor Frank Petrone (D).

Lupinacci’s move back to town government will leave an open state assembly seat for 10th district residents, which spans from Lloyd Harbor south along state Route 108/Plainview Road to SUNY Farmingdale State College, and as far east as Elwood. It is unclear who will take his place as Lupinacci’s term doesn’t expire until Dec. 31, 2018.

“Shortly after the first of the year we will have a screening process to interview potential candidates to fill that seat,” said Toni Tepe, chairwoman of the Huntington Republican Committee.

Under New York State Senate law pertaining to public officers, “A special election shall not be held … to fill a vacancy in the office of state senator or in the office of member of assembly, unless the vacancy occurs before the first day of April of the last year of the term of office. … If a special election to fill an office shall not be held as required by law, the office shall be filled at the next general election.”

Tepe said the decision on whether or not a special election will be held to fill Lupinacci’s state office will ultimately be made by state Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

Randall Woodard, 97, reflects on meeting Roosevelt, a life and roots in the village, military service

Then 12-year-old Randall Woodard, Gilbert Kinner and New York Gov. Franklin Roosevelt in Port Jeff in 1932. Photo from Warren Woodard

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in one case, a picture is worth almost 100 years of history.

On Dec. 8, 1941, 76 years ago to the day, then president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, delivered his “day which will live in infamy” speech during a joint session of Congress in response to Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Dec. 7. The address served as the precursor to the U.S. finally joining World War II and taking up the fight against the Axis powers. He went on to serve as president until his death in 1945, preventing him from completing his fourth term in office, a feat in itself, as no other American president has served more than two terms.

In the summer of 1932 just before his first presidential campaign, Roosevelt, an avid sailor, made a recreational stop in Port Jefferson Harbor.

Woodard and son Warren during a recent trip to Washington, D.C. Photo from Warren Woodard

At the time, Roosevelt was the governor of New York and the Democratic Party nominee for the general presidential election that fall. He defeated incumbent President Herbert Hoover to win the highest office in the land in November 1932. During the visit, Roosevelt took a photo aboard a sailboat with two youngsters from Port Jeff, one of whom is still alive residing in the village.

Randall Woodard was born Sept. 3, 1920, in his home on Prospect Street. His family has deep roots in Port Jefferson, though his ancestors can be traced back even further to Southold in 1664.

“I wasn’t there that day,” Woodard quipped during a November visit to the Times Beacon Record News Media office in Setauket, accompanied by his youngest son, Warren, and Richard Olson, a longtime Port Jefferson School District history teacher who has since retired.

Woodard’s father Grover was the school district manager in Port Jeff, and actually hired Earl L. Vandermeulen, who the high school was eventually named after. His wife Barbara worked in the elementary school under Edna Louise Spear, the eventual namesake of the same school. Though he said he didn’t meet any other presidents in his life, Woodard met Albert Einstein once, and his grandmother heard Abraham Lincoln give a speech in New York. Woodard went on to have two sons and a daughter, who were all raised in Port Jeff in a house on the corner of High Street and Myrtle Avenue.

The photo of Woodard, his childhood friend Gilbert Kinner and the soon-to-be president of the United States is a cherished possession of the Woodard family. Warren joked there’s a framed copy hanging in every room of his house.

Woodard said on the day he met Roosevelt that he and Kinner were sailing his family’s 12-foot mahogany vessel around Port Jefferson Harbor on a warm summer morning in June or July.

At about 10 a.m., two or three seaplanes landed in the harbor and taxied over to the beach near the east end of the waterfront near the famous Bayles Dock. Woodard, who was 12 years old at the time, said he and Kinner noticed a large crowd gathering near the dock, so they decided to sail over and see what the commotion was all about.

“I think I could take you.”

— Randall Woodard

They approached the black yawl sailing craft tied to the dock with a man wearing a white sun hat seated in the cockpit. Woodard said he still remembers noticing the metal braces on Roosevelt’s legs and a pack of cigarettes on the seat next to him.

“The whole waterfront of Port Jeff was people,” Woodard said. Roosevelt was waiting for his four sons, who were running late, to arrive to begin a vacation cruise.

The Democratic National Convention had just selected him as the party’s nominee for the presidential election that fall, and it was too early to begin campaigning. While he waited for his sons to arrive, Roosevelt and the reporters milling in the vicinity suggested the candidate should be in a photo with the two boys. Woodard and Kinner boarded, and “Vote for Roosevelt” hats were placed on their heads to wear in the photo. Woodard recalled that Kinner took the hat off, tossed it in the cockpit and calmly said, “My father is a Republican.”

Woodard said there was an even more memorable interaction from the meeting when Roosevelt asked him, “How does the boat sail?” Young Randall responded, “I think I could take you.”

He referred to the then-governor’s vessel as “badly designed,” with a laugh during the interview. He said eventually Roosevelt and the others took off sailing in the Long Island Sound. Woodard and his friend tried to keep up with Roosevelt for as long as they could until the soon-to-be president was out of sight.

“We kids went to the movies for a week straight just to see ourselves on the Pathé News movies,” Woodard wrote in a 2004 account of the day.

Woodard and his son Warren shared a story about seeing by chance a clip of 12-year-old Randall dancing on Roosevelt’s boat in a documentary about past presidents decades later. Warren said they purchased multiple copies of the documentary on DVD.

“We kids went to the movies for a week straight just to see ourselves on the Pathé News movies.”

— Randall Woodard

Woodard’s life and interests would intersect with Roosevelt’s in other ways later in life. His daughter Tracy was diagnosed with polio in 1949, which also famously afflicted Roosevelt. Woodard’s affinity for boating only grew after 1932, and he eventually went on to serve in the U.S. Navy, where Roosevelt had previously served as the assistant secretary prior to his years as governor.

The Woodards owned several sailboats and fishing boats through the years. In 1936, Randall and his older brothers, twins Martin and Merwin, finished tied for first among 2,000 other competitors worldwide for the Snipe Class International championship. Through the years he often competed in races and experienced more-than-modest levels of success.

After graduating from Port Jefferson High School in 1938, Woodard attended The Citadel military college in South Carolina.

“The war was on the horizon in Europe and a military college made sense at that time,” he wrote in 2004. He joked he and a high school friend went to Citadel because their grades were not good enough to attend the U.S. Naval or Coast Guard academies.

“I was not a hero,” Woodard said. “If we didn’t have a Marine Corps we’d still be over there. I was in enough tight spots to know.”

After graduating from The Citadel with a degree in civil engineering, he became a Seabee officer in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions. The Seabees, as they were called — a play on “CB” for Construction Battalion — were deployed to Pearl Harbor in the aftermath of the Japanese attack to reconstruct damaged bulkheads, dredge the ocean floor to allow ships passage and assemble barges and causeways in preparation for an amphibious attack, according to Woodard. During his training prior to deployment while stationed in Rhode Island, Woodard was aboard the world’s largest sea tow, which was an experimental floating airfield slated for assembly in Alaska. The airfield was not needed, and broken-up pieces were used during the Normandy Invasion on D-Day.

“The war was on the horizon in Europe and a military college made sense at that time.”

— Randall Woodard

He was part of a mission headed to a series of islands in the Pacific near Japan in May 1944, weeks before the beaches were stormed in Normandy. Nine days after D-Day, aboard a craft carrying four barges Woodard was responsible for overseeing, the U.S. Marine Corps invaded Saipan, a Japanese-held island. Woodard and the Seabees contributed to the mission by using the barges to unload ammunition, gasoline and other supplies.

One day a Japanese Zero aircraft flew low and attacked his flat steel barge with little options in the way of hiding places. He said he pulled out his handgun and fired two rounds at the aircraft, which eventually went down.

“I probably missed, but the plane crashed into the side of a freighter,” he wrote in 2004. He said his barges survived for five weeks until the island was secure. After the victory over Japan, he spent six months at Navy Department Bureau of Yards and Docks in Washington, D.C., where he met Barbara Brown, whom he later married. Woodard said he remained in the Navy reserves for about 15 years.

When he returned home, Woodard worked for years as a civil engineer. In the 1950s he was the resident engineer overseeing a series of contracts to construct the Northern State and Sunken Meadow parkways, and said he was responsible for the construction of all of the parkway overpasses in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

This post was updated Dec. 8 to correct the date of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 speech.

The race between Republican Larry Zacarese and Democrat Errol Toulon appears to be over. Photo on left by Alex Petroski; photo on right by Rita J. Egan

The wait is over.

Nearly a month after Election Day, Suffolk County residents finally know who will replace outgoing Sheriff Vincent DeMarco (C) in 2018. Former Rikers Island corrections officer and captain Errol Toulon Jr. (D) emerged ahead of Stony Brook University Assistant Chief of Police Larry Zacarese (R) by a slim margin Nov. 7 in the race to be the next county sheriff, and after thousands of absentee ballots have been counted, Toulon’s lead has held up.

“I am proud of the campaign we ran and the hard work of our volunteers,” Toulon said in a statement. “I look forward to combating gang violence and the opioid epidemic in Suffolk, and to introduce a strong re-entry program for those leaving county jails.”

The victory makes Toulon the first African-American elected official in a nonjudicial countywide position in Suffolk’s history, according to campaign manager Keith Davies.

“I think his experience just resonated with folks,” Davies said. “People wanted a sheriff that is ready to tackle the issues.”

In an emailed statement through a campaign spokesperson, Zacarese said he was disappointed and announced, “We did not make up the ground we needed in order to prevail.” A spokesperson from the Suffolk County Board of Elections confirmed Toulon had won the race, though a final tally was not immediately available at the time of print. The spokesperson said Toulon held a 2,000-vote lead as of Dec. 1 with about 1,000 ballots left to be counted.

“I want to thank all of the supporters and volunteers who spent countless hours working alongside me both on the campaign trail over the last year and at the Board of Elections over these last few weeks,” Zacarese said. “I am proud of the campaign we ran, the honest and tireless work of our volunteers and the light that was shown on the electoral process here in Suffolk County. I wish the hardworking and dedicated men and women of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office only the best and congratulate Errol Toulon Jr. on winning the election.”

Zacarese trailed Toulon by just 1,354 votes prior to the counting of absentee ballots, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections. The absentee ballots were counted by a bipartisan team of department employees in addition to representatives from both campaigns at the Board of Elections office in Yaphank over a few weeks. Nick LaLota, the department’s commissioner, said on election night at about 8:30 p.m. on Twitter the department had received more than 13,500 absentee ballots to that point, though more were expected.

Toulon began serving as a corrections officer at Rikers Island in 1982 and retired as a captain in 2004. For two years he was assistant deputy county executive for public safety in Suffolk, and in 2014 he was named deputy commissioner of operations for the New York City Department of Corrections.

“I’ve been able to learn a lot on various levels inside of a correctional agency, and while that’s not the entire makeup of the sheriff’s department, it is a good portion of it,” Toulon said during a pre-election interview.

Toulon’s victory completes a sweep for the Democrats in the two high-profile Suffolk County races in 2017. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini (D) defeated Ray Perini (R) with 62.08 percent of the vote in the Nov. 7 general election to secure the county’s district attorney seat, a position left vacant following the indictment and resignation of Tom Spota (D).

DeMarco announced in May he wouldn’t seek re-election after 12 years in the position.

This post was updated to include quotes from Toulon Dec. 7.

U.S. Reps. Peter King, Lee Zeldin and Tom Suozzi voice bipartisan opposition to the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Nov. 28. Photo by Alex Petroski

Components of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a federal tax reform bill passed by the House of Representatives in November and currently before the U.S. Senate, has achieved the seemingly impossible in finding common ground for Republicans and Democrats.

Members of Long Island’s congressional delegation from both political parties stood in front of the Internal Revenue Service building in Hauppauge Nov. 28 alongside business owners, representatives from local chambers of commerce, and town and county elected officials to deliver a clear and unified message: As currently constituted, both the House and Senate versions of the bill would harm Long Islanders.

“I view it as a geographic redistribution of wealth to propose eliminating [state and local tax deductions],” 1st Congressional District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said during the press conference, pointing to the elimination of the SALT deduction as a key sticking point in the bill. “You’re proposing to take more money from a place like New York in order to pay for deeper tax cuts elsewhere.”

“You’re proposing to take more money from a place like New York in order to pay for deeper tax cuts elsewhere.”

— Lee Zeldin

The SALT deduction, which was enacted 100 years ago, is a provision that in the past, through federal tax returns, gave a portion of tax dollars back to individuals in higher income and property tax states like New York, New Jersey and California to avoid double taxation. The deduction was eliminated in the House version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which the body passed Nov. 16, for individuals’ income taxes, and limited property tax deductions to $10,000. The Senate’s version of the bill, which has not been voted on yet, completely eliminates all SALT deductions. Both the House and Senate versions double the (married filing jointly) standard deduction from $12,000 to $24,000. The bill has been touted by President Donald Trump (R) and other members of Republican leadership as a massive tax cut for middle-class families.

The 2nd District U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and 3rd District U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) also attended the press conference to rally support for changes to the bill. Zeldin and King were among 13 Republicans in the House to vote “no” on the bill, with 227 voting to pass it. None of the House Democrats voted in favor of the bill.

“There are some good aspects in both the House bill and the Senate bill,” Zeldin said. “Voters last November, when they went to the polls looking for that tax relief for them, for their families, for their community … this is not the tax relief that they had in mind. We may be upsetting a lot of people in our own party back in Washington right now, but we are not elected to be their congressmen.”

King echoed Zeldin’s position on both versions of the bill, calling the position between the three representatives a “united front.”

“I strongly favor tax cuts across the board,” King said. “I believe they are necessary, but this bill, both the House version and the Senate bill, I am opposed to.”

“We’re not asking for any special benefit, because we’ve gotten a raw deal over the years as far as federal distribution of revenues, but don’t add to that.”

— Peter King

King reiterated that his biggest issue with the bills is the elimination of the SALT deduction.

“This is inequitable, it’s unjust and it’s wrong,” King said. “Long Island is really the main victim of this tax bill. We’re not asking for any special benefit, because we’ve gotten a raw deal over the years as far as federal distribution of revenues, but don’t add to that. Don’t make it worse.”

King, who has been a supporter of Trump and his agenda, also took the opportunity to send a message to the White House.

“My district twice voted for Barack Obama by four points and by five points,” King said. “Donald Trump carried [New York’s 2nd Congressional District] by nine points. That was a 14-point turnaround. The people of Long Island didn’t make that turnaround so the Trump administration could raise their taxes so the rest of the country could get a tax break.”

Suozzi, the lone congressional Democrat at the event, also preached unity on tax reform as it pertains to Long Islanders.

“This would be a punch in the gut to everybody on Long Island if this bill were to pass either in the House form or the Senate form,” he said. Suozzi added that he thought it took guts for Zeldin and King to be among the 13 “no” votes among Republicans in the House. “We’re united 100 percent in recognizing eliminating the state and local tax deduction would be devastating to our constituents.”

New York’s income tax rate is among the highest in America, with members of the top tax bracket paying 8.82 percent in 2017. On average, the state income tax deduction for New Yorkers making between $50,000 and $200,000 in annual income for the 2015 tax year was between $4,049 and $9,330. The same group of earners deducted on average between $5,869 and $8,158 over the same time period in state and local real estate taxes. The 2015 tax year is latest year with available data according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, an organization that provides independent analysis of tax policy.

Participants of a protest against the federal tax bill outside of Renaissance Technologies in Setauket Nov. 29. Photo by Kevin Redding

Representatives from local organizations stood outside Renaissance Technologies in East Setauket Nov. 29 to voice their opposition to the bill. Until recently, Robert Mercer was the chief executive officer of the hedge fund, though he is known nationally for his contributions to conservative and right-wing political campaigns.

“It’s clear that there are a lot of changes that are coming and for middle-class folks like us, they’re not going to be good changes,” said Peter Verdon a Suffolk County resident who was present at the protest. “The system is clearly out of whack, tilted towards the extremely wealthy and it’s continuing in that direction and enough’s enough. We can’t allow that to continue to happen.”

Bill Crump, a Lindenhurst resident and member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition political activist group also attended.

“We’re going to have a $1.5 trillion deficit and they’re going to cut our Medicare and our benefits,” he said. “It’s coming out of our pockets. Trump claims he’s going to give a tax cut. Maybe he’s going to give you a quarter while he reaches in and takes your wallet.”

This post was updated Nov. 29 to correct the income tax and mortgage tax deduction amounts under the two bills, and to include information about a Nov. 29 protest in Setauket. Additional reporting contributed by Kevin Redding.

Village Mayor Margot Garant said residents of Port Jefferson Village would get “whacked” by the elimination of the SALT deduction in the federal tax reform bill. File photo by Alex Petroski

Governmental leaders from virtually all levels in New York have come out in opposition to the federal tax reform bill, and now the Port Jefferson Village board can be added to the list.

The village passed a resolution at its Nov. 20 board meeting “expressing its strong opposition to any federal tax reform legislation that would eliminate or limit access to the state and local tax deduction.” The SALT deduction, which was enacted about 100 years ago, is a provision that in the past, through federal tax returns, gave a portion of tax dollars back to individuals in higher income and property tax states like New York, New Jersey and California to avoid “double taxation.” The deduction was eliminated in the House version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which the body passed Nov. 16, for individuals’ income taxes, and limited property tax deductions to $10,000. The Senate’s version of the bill, which has not been voted on yet, completely eliminates all SALT deductions. Both the House and Senate versions double the (married filing jointly) standard deduction from $12,000 to $24,000. The bill has been touted by President Donald Trump (R) and other members of Republican leadership as a massive tax cut for middle class families.

“We’re going to get whacked,” Village Mayor Margot Garant said of the bill during the board meeting.

New York’s income tax rate is among the highest in America, with members of the top tax bracket paying 8.82 percent in 2017. On average, the state income tax deduction for New Yorkers making between $50,000 and $200,000 in annual income for the 2015 tax year was between $4,049 and $9,330. The same group of earners deducted on average between $5,869 and $8,158 over the same time period in state and local real estate taxes. The 2015 tax year is latest year with available data according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, an organization that provides independent analysis of tax policy.

“New York residents already send $41 billion more to the federal treasury than the federal government returns to New York,” the village resolution reads. “The state and local tax deduction is a fundamental principle of federalism and without it our residents would be faced with double taxation, as they would be forced to pay federal income taxes on the taxes they must pay to state and local governments.”

Garant joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), New York’s U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D), U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), and U.S. Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Peter King (R-Seaford) in opposing the bill. Zeldin and King were among 13 Republicans in the House to vote “no” on the bill, with 227 voting to pass it.

“I view the elimination of the SALT deduction as a geographic redistribution of wealth, picking winners and losers,” Zeldin said in a statement. “The proposal taxes additional funds from a state like New York in order to pay for deeper tax cuts elsewhere. For anyone who incorrectly argues that the rest of the country subsidizes our state, I would point out that New York is a net contributor to the federal coffers with regards to both tax policy and spending policy and that is even with the SALT deduction.”

According to www.censusreporter.org, about 62 percent of Port Jefferson Village residents earn between $50,000 and $200,000 in annual salary.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill shortly after Thanksgiving.

This post was updated Nov. 29 to correct the income tax and mortgage tax deduction amounts under the two bills.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would reduce the number of income tax brackets from seven to four; eliminate deductions for state and local income taxes; and would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent. Stock photo

By Alex Petroski

Last week Republicans in the House of Representatives took a major step toward fulfilling a lynchpin campaign promise that is seemingly decades old.

The House Ways and Means committee released the framework of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Nov. 2, a major piece of legislation touted by President Donald Trump (R) as a cut to income taxes for “hardworking, middle-income Americans,” though it would negatively affect New Yorkers if signed into law, according to lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle.

The highlights of the bill, which would require passage by the House and Senate and the president’s signature before becoming law, include a consolidation from seven individual income tax brackets down to four; the elimination of the deduction for state and local income taxes, a provision that in the past through federal tax returns gave a portion of tax dollars back to individuals in higher income tax states like New York; and a reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent.

“I am a ‘No’ to this bill in its current form,” 1st Congressional District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said in a statement. “We need to fix this state and local tax [SALT] deduction issue. Adding back in the property tax deduction up to $10,000 is progress, but not enough progress. If I’m not fighting for New Yorkers, I can’t expect anyone else from another state to do it for me.”

U.S. Rep. for the 2nd District, Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), was even more critical of the bill than Zeldin.

“The goal of tax reform is to help hard-working Americans make more money so they can live the American Dream,” Suozzi said in a statement. “The American people expect us to find a bipartisan solution to tax reform that helps create good paying middle-class jobs. This plan doesn’t achieve that goal. I won’t support it.”

Other New York lawmakers from the Democratic Party voiced harsh opposition to the bill in its current form.

New York’s U.S. senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York) each said via Twitter they viewed the bill as a tax break for corporations that would have a negative impact on middle-class citizens. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) called the bill a “tax increase plan.”

“The tax reform plan, they call a tax cut plan,” Cuomo said in a statement. “It has a diabolical dimension, which is the elimination of the deductibility of state and local taxes … what makes it an even more gross injustice is, the state of New York contributes more to the federal government than any other state. New York contributes more to Washington than any other state. We’re the No. 1 donor state. We give $48 billion more than we get back. Why you would want to take more from New York is a gross, gross injustice.”

Duncan MacKenzie, chief executive officer of the New York State Association of Realtors said in a statement the bill would harm many New York homeowners.

“It will lessen the value of the property tax deduction and it cuts a host of other key housing-related tax incentives,” he said.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in the 1980s and dedicated to educating the public on issues with significant fiscal policy impact, estimated the bill would result in a $1.5 trillion increase to the national deficit.

Mark Snyder of Mark J. Snyder Financial Services, a Hauppauge-based personal financial planning and management firm, called the bill a “torpedo aimed at the wallets of Long Islanders” in an email. He also pointed to the elimination of the SALT deduction as clear evidence the bill would harm New Yorkers.

“As a representative from New York, I’d kick this bill to the curb,” he said when asked what he would do if he were tasked with voting on the bill.

Peace group now focuses attention on proposed renaming of school of medicine to include Renaissance

Members of the North Country Peace Group plan to continue organizing demonstrations at Renaissance Technologies in E. Setauket despite the announcement that co-CEO Robert Mercer is stepping down. File photo by Rita J. Egan

The end of a co-CEO’s reign won’t stop an activist group from demonstrating outside of his hedge fund’s East Setauket office, especially after members heard a local university school of medicine may be renamed to include the company name.

Robert Mercer, of Renaissance Technologies, announced in a Nov. 2 letter to investors that he will be stepping down as co-CEO and resigning from the firm’s board of directors as of Jan. 1. In the letter, he stated he would remain a member of the technical staff and be involved in research work.

For nearly two years, the North Country Peace Group, a local peace and social justice organization, has often held demonstrations in front of the entrance of Renaissance Technologies. Most recently, the group held an August rally protesting the alleged contributions of millions of dollars to alt-right causes by Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, and the pair’s alignment with the ultraconservative online media company Breitbart News.

“We were shocked [when we heard the news], because we immediately thought look what we’ve accomplished,” said Bill McNulty, a member of the North County Peace Group.

An activist at an Aug. 23 rally in E. Setauket. File photo by Rita J. Egan

He said the sense of accomplishment was short-lived after news reports of companies pulling their investments from the hedge fund, and he said he believes this was the determining factor for Mercer stepping down and not the group’s demonstrations.

“I don’t feel he’s really stepping down,” said Myrna Gordon, a member of the activist group. “In his statement, he said he was still going to be involved with Renaissance, that he would still be doing work there. The only thing that was changed was the word co-CEO. He’s still there. So, we feel that he’s still entrenched in the company.”

Members of North Country Peace Group were alerted to an Oct. 2 Stony Brook Council meeting where it was proposed to rename the Stony Brook School of Medicine to the Renaissance School of Medicine. The council serves as an advisory body to the campus and Stony Brook University’s president and senior officers. In the webcast of the meeting available on SBU’s website, council chairman Kevin Law said a resolution regarding the renaming was approved electronically a few weeks prior and needed to be ratified by the council members at the Oct. 2 meeting.

Dexter Bailey, senior vice president for advancement and executive director of the Stony Brook Foundation, said during a presentation Oct. 2 the reason for the renaming was due to the generosity of 111 of the 300 Renaissance employees over the last few decades. The university received its first donation of $750 from one of the firm’s employees in 1982, and through the years Renaissance employees have donated $508 million to the university. In 2011, Renaissance Technologies founder and former CEO Jim Simons and his wife Marilyn donated a historic $150 million.

“These are individuals who have graduated from the top schools around the world — a lot of Ivy League grads — and to be able to have them adopt Stony Brook as one of their philanthropic priorities has really been a pleasure,” Bailey said.

He said many of the donors like to keep their contributions private, and the university looked for something that the employees could reflect on and take pride in.

Members of the North Country Peace Group will now keep an eye on developments for renaming the Stony Brook School of Medicine to Renaissance School of Medicine. File photo by Rita J. Egan

“We feel that naming the school of medicine will not only recognize the 35 years of history, but it actually sets the stage for future giving.” Bailey said.

During voting for the resolution, only one council member, Karen Wishnia, who represents the graduate student body, opposed the proposal. Wishnia said in a phone interview after the meeting, that even though she recognizes the generosity of the Renaissance employees and Simons, she “couldn’t in good conscience vote yes for this” largely because of the association with Mercer.

The next step for the resolution is for the university to obtain approval from the State University of New York chancellor and board of trustees.

McNulty and Gordon said members of the North County Peace Group strongly believe a state school of medicine doesn’t need to be renamed after a company, even if its employees are generous. They said the group has struggled in the past with how to separate the employees of Renaissance from the CEO.

“It puts the employees in a strange spot,” McNulty said, adding it’s understandable how those making good salaries with the company may be reluctant to admit Renaissance may be involved in negative activities. “We have had people come out of the company’s office who have been supportive of the information that we’ve imparted, and we’ve had others who have given us the [middle] finger.”

The two said the North Country Peace Group plans to continue demonstrations in front of Renaissance and educate the community about the renaming of the medical school. Gordon said when she watched the video of the Stony Brook Council meeting she was surprised there was no discussion after the vote was taken, and she wonders why the university hasn’t been more transparent about the proposal that involves a state school of medicine paid for by taxpayers.

“I would be pleased and honored to have the Stony Brook School of Medicine right up there in the forefront, and once big money corporations start buying landmarks, arenas, stadiums, you’re dealing with a whole other type of situation,” Gordon said. “We should be proud that it’s the State University of New York at Stony Brook. We should be proud that it’s the Stony Brook medical center.”

A Renaissance representative did not respond to requests for comments by press time.

Incumbents win back Brookhaven, Suffolk County legislator seats

The race between Republican Larry Zacarese and Democrat Errol Toulon appears to be over. Photo on left by Alex Petroski; photo on right by Rita J. Egan

By Desirée Keegan

In a landslide victory, Suffolk County will have a new district attorney, and with that a new chief of police.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini (D) defeated Ray Perini (R) with 62.08 percent of the vote in the Nov. 7 general election. Perini, who came up with 106,773 votes, ran a contentious campaign against Sini, who campaigned as a reformer hoping to restore reliability to the office.

“Together we have ushered in a new era of criminal justice in Suffolk County, an era of integrity, fairness and doing the right thing,” Sini told supporters at his campaign headquarters in Hauppauge. “We are going to return the office to the honorable institution it once was.”

With Sini’s victory, he will leave his post at the start of 2018, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) will appoint a new police commissioner.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini talks to supporters after learning about his landslide win for district attorney. Photo by Greg Catalano

“I will immediately begin to assemble a top-notch transition team consisting of local and federal officials,” Sini continued. “This team will conduct a thorough top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top assessment of the office and we will do whatever it takes to ensure the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office works for the people. Under my administration, the office will work for the people and not politics. For far too long this office has been used as a tool for those who are politically connected. That ends today.”

The race for the new sheriff in town was too close to call at the end of election night, with Democrat Errol Toulon, a former New York City deputy corrections commissioner, holding a slim lead over Republican Larry Zacarese, an assistant police chief at Stony Brook University. The last update from the Suffolk County Board of Election’s unofficial results showed Toulon had 141,006 votes to Zacarese’s 139,652.

Toulon said he believes he will maintain his advantage.

“I feel very confident,” he said from the IBEW Local 25 building in Hauppauge. “I feel incredibly overwhelmed with the support considering I have only been in this race for five-and-a-half weeks, and the people of Suffolk County recognize they want someone with experience, and I feel confident that when the absentee ballots are counted I will be sheriff of Suffolk County.”

Zacarese said he knew it was down to the wire, and couldn’t wait to see the results once the 15,000 absentee ballots are counted.

“For anybody here who knows me, you know I don’t do anything the easy way, so what else did you expect?” he said. “This is far from over. We’re going to get to work starting tomorrow.”

Incumbents swept Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town in TBR News Media’s coverage area on election night.

In the most contested legislative race on the North Shore, incumbent 6th District Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) edged out Rocky Point resident and local business owner Gary Pollakusky to secure her fourth term. After winning by 17 votes in the 2015 election, Anker finished the evening with 10,985 (54.93 percent) votes to Pollakusky’s 9,004 (45.03 percent).

Diane and Ed Romaine celebrate the Brookhaven Town supervisor’s re-election. Photo by Alex Petroski

“We had such an amazing victory, and this shows you all the hard work that I do, that my office does,” Anker said. “This is what we do — we are public servants. We work for the people. The people make a decision to vote and it’s a victory for everyone. There are so many initiatives and projects that I started and I want to continue with.”

Pollakusky thanked the members of his team for their hard work in putting together what he called a “great campaign.”

“Blood sweat and tears,” he said went into his preparation for election night. “Really, we ran a great race.”

In the 5th District, Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is looking forward to continuing her environmental work. She came through with 63.39 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Ed Flood, who finished with 36.56 percent of the vote.

“I love our community, and I work hard every day to make a difference and to help people,” Hahn said. “I’m just thrilled to be able to continue to do that.”

Returnee Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) claimed her second term in office at the helm of the 12th District with an overwhelming 67.40 percent of the vote to challenger Kevin Hyms’ 32.55 percent.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) was in a race that nearly doubled in turnout total from the last time he ran. With 61.9 percent of the vote, the longtime politician secured his seventh and eighth year as the head of the town.

“Thank you to all of the voters in Brookhaven,” he said from Stereo Garden LI in Patchogue. “Thank you for the overwhelming mandate for myself and all those who ran with us. We got the message. We’re going to keep on making sure that taxes stay low, we’re going to keep on moving Brookhaven forward, we’re going to keep on doing the right thing.”

Councilwomen Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) also secured their seats.

Voters anxiously and nervously watch results come in. Photo by Alex Petroski

Cartright, representing the 1st District, won with 60.3 percent of the vote to Republican James Canale’s 39.66 percent.

“I am just extremely humbled and honored to have been given this amazing opportunity,” Canale said. “I may have lost, but you can not keep me down. I will be back and I will be better than ever.”

Bonner, representing the 2nd District, said she was happy with her win. She pulled away with 63.54 percent of the vote to Coram resident and software developer Mike Goodman’s 36.43 percent.

In the town’s 3rd Council District, Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) lauded what he called “amazing results” (65.53 percent of the votes).

“Well I guess the word is out — good Republican government is back in Brookhaven,” LaValle said. “I look back at this town board — this is a great team we have here with supervisor Romaine, highway superintendent [Dan] Losquadro — this is a team that’s going to get the job done and has gotten the job done for the residents of Brookhaven.”

Losquadro (R) maintained his highway superintendent title, securing 60.32 percent of the votes to Democratic challenger Anthony Portesy’s 39.65 percent. Donna Lent (I) will remain town clerk with a 57.26  to 42.7 percent win over Democrat Cindy Morris.

Lent said of the results, “when you run on your record and you run on your integrity you always win.”

Rita J. Egan and Alex Petroski contributed reporting

New York voters will decide whether or not to open up the New York Constitution on Election Day. Stock image

Follow @TBRNewspapers or check #TBRVotes on Twitter for our reporters’ on-the-ground and up-to-the-minute coverage of tonight’s election results.

Proposal 1: Constitutional Convention

Yes: 13.38%            No: 86.61%

Proposal 2: Amendment on public pension forfeiture

Yes: 69.19%            No: 30.8%

Proposal 3: Amendment on use of forest preserve land

Yes: 48.63%            No: 51.36%

 

Suffolk County District Attorney

    Ray Perini (R)               Tim Sini (D)
        36.41%                        62.08%

 

Suffolk County Sheriff

 Larry Zacarese (R)      Errol Toulon Jr. (D)
         48.93%                        49.41%

 

Suffolk County Legislator
5th District:
    Kara Hahn (D)              Ed Flood (R)
       63.39%                         36.56%

 

6th District:   
    Sarah Anker (D)      Gary Pollakusky (R)
          54.93%                       45.02%

 

12th District:
Leslie Kennedy (R)        Kevin Hyms (D)
         67.4%                         32.55%
13th District:
      Rob Trotta (R)        Coleen Maher (D)
           67.62%                     32.32%
16th District:
 Susan Berland (D)      Hector Gavilla (R)
          54.93%                      45.03%
18th District:

William Spencer (D)      Dom Spada (R)
          53.12%                      45.65%

Town of Brookhaven

Supervisor

  Ed Romaine (R)        Jack Harrington (D)
        61.91%                        38.06%

 

Councilperson
1st District:

Valerie Cartright (D)   James Canale (R)
          60.3%                      39.66%
2nd District:

   Jane Bonner (C)        Mike Goodman (D)
         63.53%                       36.42%
3rd District:

  Kevin LaValle (R)       Alfred Ianacci (D)
         65.52%                       33.98%

 

Highway Superintendent

Dan Losquadro (R)     Anthony Portesy (D)
         60.32%                      39.65%

 

Town Clerk

    Donna Lent (I)         Cindy Morris (D)
          57.26%                      42.36%

Town of Huntington

Supervisor
Tracey Edwards (D)    Chad Lupinacci (R)
         43.87%                       53.85%

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards conceded to state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. “I want to wish supervisor-elect Lupinacci congratulations on a hard-fought race,” she said. “I have no regrets about not running for town board. I could not be prouder [of my party]. We ran together and ran a positive race talking about issues important to us.”

Town Board

Mark Cuthbertson (D)    Emily Rogan (D)
         25.49%                        23.91%

   Jim Leonick (R)             Ed Smyth (R)
          24.92%                        25.6%

Emily Rogan on her loss in her first political race: “Not the way we waned, but I feel so blessed and full of gratitude,” she said. “This is one election. We are not done yet.”

 

Town of Smithtown

Supervisor

  Ed Wehrheim (R)        Kristen Slevin (I)
          56.79%                       7.85%

 

     Bill Holst (D)
          35.07%

“I feel terrific,” Ed Wehrheim said of winning. “It’s been a long, long campaign because of the primary, which was a very tough one, but this is the culmination of all of it. It feels great to be here with all my supporters and family and friends — they’ve been with me the whole way. It’s a great victory for Smithtown in my opinion, a great victory for my supporters and the residents. I’m looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and getting to work in January.”

Town Council

 Tom McCarthy (R)      Lynne Nowick (R)
        22.45%                       24.45%

    Bob Doyle (C)           Tom Lohmann (C)
           9.63%                        9.18%

Amy Fortunato (D)    Patricia Stoddard (D)
         17.62%                      16.44%

All percentages are unofficial results as per the Suffolk County Board of Elections

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