Politics

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio presented the town's 2018 tentative operating budget this week. File photo by Susan Risoli

Smithtown homeowners may find themselves in an enviable position as Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) looks to cut taxes for the second straight year.

Vecchio presented his $105 million 2018 proposed Smithtown Town budget at a brief 46-second special town board meeting Oct. 3. There was no public discussion of the budget, as town board members were seeing the nearly 200-page document for the first time.

“Ostensibly, the proposed budget is now theirs; the [town board] can change it or do anything with it they would like,” Vecchio said. “My experience is that they’ve never changed it.”

Overall, the proposed budget contains an increase of $2 million over the 2017 budget, but will reduce the town taxes for the average homeowner by $1.05, down from $1,269.88 per year to $1,268.83 per year for a home with an assessed value of $5,500. It falls well under the state tax cap of 1.84 percent.

Vecchio said he prepared a structurally balanced budget in which incoming revenues match the recurring expenditures, a measure he achieved by implementing cost cutting initiatives and long-range planning.

First and foremost, the supervisor pointed to careful control of town employees’ salaries.

“We have not replaced employees who have retired,” the supervisor said. “When we do rehire employees, we rehire them at a lower salary.”

While positions have been lost through attrition, the 2018 budget does not call for the layoff of any existing town personnel.

Smithtown town officials also gradually implemented a new policy of leasing
vehicles used by various departments, such as parks and highways, instead of outright purchasing them.

“It’s saved us a lot of money,” Vecchio said. “There’s a big outlay when purchasing a vehicle for a municipality, plus then there’s maintenance.”

Other cost-saving measures taken by the town include replacing streetlights with LED lights and sharing services for emergency dispatching, according to the supervisor.

The proposed budget has set aside $4.4 million for the 2018 road program, which in addition to $1.1 million in state funding, will allow for road improvements and repaving over the upcoming year.

Vecchio said the town is in a good fiscal position with a Triple A bond rating and a $17 million surplus in its general fund.

“What’s the benefit, residents might ask, of having a $17 million surplus?” he said. “The benefit of having that money in surplus is your bond rating. Your interest rates on bonds are always lower when you
have reserves.”

The supervisor has proposed allocating $600,000 of the town’s surplus funds towards the highway budget to supplement continued roadway improvements. A similar measure was approved in the 2017 budget which appropriated $602,000 for roadways and later approved $2 million specifically for improvements to Lake
Avenue in Smithtown.

A public hearing on the 2018 proposed budget will be held at the town board meeting on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. Residents can review a line-by-line budget breakdown on the town’s website at www.smithtownny.gov.

Town of Huntington officials want to ensure that Italian-Americans can celebrate their culture with pride this Columbus Day weekend.

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) made a vow to protect the Christopher Columbus statue overlooking  Huntington Village against a growing movement to remove what have been referred to as controversial historical monuments.

“The Town of Huntington took on the crusade of putting the statue here,” Petrone said. “We are not removing the statue. The town board feels very strongly about this; we are not removing it.”

Huntington’s Christopher Columbus statue has stood at the corner of Main Street and Lawrence Hill Road for more than 40 years. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington’s Columbus statue has stood at the corner of Main Street and Lawrence Hill Road for more than 40 years, according to Petrone. It was commissioned by Sam Albicocco, a Huntington resident of Italian-American heritage, and its costs were financed by contributions from local residents.

The supervisor said he felt it was necessary to make a public statement in wake of a growing movement at the national and state levels to remove public monuments to controversial historical figures, such as Confederate war leaders and Christopher Columbus.

In August, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) assembled a committee to consider possible removal of “symbols of hate” throughout the city, including statues of Christopher Columbus, as national debate raged over taking down Confederate monuments.

Shortly after the committee was announced, The New York Times reported the Christopher Columbus statue in Central Park was defaced with its hands stained by red paint and graffiti, which included the words “Hate will not be tolerated” on the pedestal.

“This is a political frenzy that’s been unleashed on the Italian community,” said Robert Ferrito, state president of the Sons of Italy. “It’s a frenzy of political correctness and a rewriting of history.”

Ferrito said his Italian-American fraternal organization is working with other organizations throughout the state to ensure that all monuments to Christopher Columbus are protected and the holiday remains unchanged.

“This is a political frenzy that’s been unleashed on the Italian community. It’s a frenzy of political correctness and a rewriting of history.”

— Rob Ferrito

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) recalled how his own father, an immigrant, was one of many Italian-Americans who faced strong discrimination during World War II and the years that followed and spoke of how it relates to the proposition of tearing down the statue.

“I was proud as a young boy to be an Italian-American,” Suozzi said. “We are going to make sure people realize Christopher Columbus gave so much to our country, just like Italian-Americans gave so much to our country, and we are not backing down.”

The announcement by Town officials comes on the eve of the annual Long Island Fall Festival in Heckscher Park, which is traditionally kicked off each year with a wreath laying at the Columbus statue.

“As anyone who has viewed the parade knows, it is not only about one man,
Christopher Columbus,” Petrone said. “It is about the millions of Long Islanders of Italian extraction who take pride in their heritage and their contributions to our town, our Island, our state and our country. Here in the Town of Huntington — a town that values diversity and inclusiveness, and, above all, history — we have no plans to cancel the parade. And we certainly have no plans to even consider taking down this statue.”

The wreath laying will be held Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. The town’s annual Columbus Day parade will be held on Oct. 8 starting at 12:30 p.m. and travel along the length of Main Street.

Petrone said that the town had not received any written objections to the parade or ceremony as of Oct. 1.

The polls will open at 6 a.m. on Election Day.

By Lisa Scott

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. Voting is not only a right, it is a responsibility — our democracy works best when everyone participates. Polls in Suffolk County will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. To confirm that you are registered to vote and confirm your polling place, visit www.suffolkvotes.com — the website of the Suffolk County Board of Elections. If you believe your information is incorrect, call them at 631-852-4500.

If you think you may not be in the county on Election Day or will not be able to get to polls because of illness, complete an absentee ballot application (available at libraries, post offices and town halls or download at http://suffolkvotes.com/Images/ABSENTEE_APPLICATION_%20English.pdf). Print and mail it to the Suffolk County Board of Elections by Oct. 31. They will mail you your ballot, which you must complete and mail back by Nov. 6.

Remember Nov. 7 is a general election. The Suffolk County ballot will include candidates for district attorney, sheriff and judges. All 18 Suffolk County Legislature seats are on the ballot as well. Locally there are elections for various town offices.

In addition to electing public officials, voters have an opportunity to approve or reject proposals made by any local governmental body. These are usually printed on the back of the ballot. This year, New York State has offered Proposals 1, 2 and 3 for consideration by the voter.

The first — “Shall there be a convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same?” — is offered by law every 20 years to the electorate.  If the vote is negative, there will be no convention.  If the majority vote yes, there will be a convention in 2019 to consider amendments to the New York State Constitution.

In November 2018 delegates will be elected by the voters — three from each state senatorial district and 15 at large.  The amendments that are adopted by a majority of the delegates will be submitted to the voters for their approval at least six weeks after the convention adjourns.  Proponents of the convention hope that it will affect election and voting and ethics reform, changes that have been proposed to the legislature but never passed.

Other areas for improvement are judicial reform, environmental issues and health care and women’s issues. Opponents of the proposal are concerned that it may lead to a complete overhaul of the state constitution, removing or revising protections of state pensions and collective bargaining, the Adirondack Forest Preserve and school funding.

The second proposal — “Allowing the complete or partial forfeiture of a public officer’s pension if he or she is convicted of a certain type of felony,” — would allow a court to reduce or revoke the pension of a public officer who is convicted of a felony that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the officer’s duties.  In reaching this determination the court must consider the seriousness of the crime and whether the forfeiture would result in undue hardship to dependent children. If approved, the amendment will apply only to crimes committed on or after Jan. 1, 2018, because the New York Constitution now provides that the benefits of a public pension or retirement system cannot be reduced or impaired.

The third proposal — “Authorizing the use of forest preserve land for specific purposes,” — would create a land account with up to 250 acres for use by towns, villages and counties that have no viable alternative to using forest preserve land to address specific public health and safety concerns.  Another 250 acres will be added to the forest preserve as a substitute for the land removed. The proposed article would allow counties and townships of certain regions to conduct repairs on road and bridges and allow for the installation of new bike paths, broadband internet and water well infrastructure.

Although the Adirondack Forest Preserve is protected by the “Forever Wild” clause of the constitution, local governments, elected officials and the NYS DEC all support this amendment, feeling it is necessary for the safety of residents and to ensure that quality of life is maintained.

Make sure you are registered to vote by Oct. 13. If you moved since the last time you voted, you must reregister. Watch for news of candidate forums in your community and articles in your local newspaper or visit www.Vote411.org and the Suffolk County Board of Elections website, www.suffolkvotes.com. Be a voter, and have your voice heard.

Lisa Scott is the president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org, email league@lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

Darryl St. George at a RAP Week press conference earlier this month. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Huntington Democrats are looking to heal a party rift by working together to push towards securing the town supervisor seat up for grabs this November.

Centerport resident Darryl St. George has put out a call for his followers to support Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) in her campaign for Huntington Town Supervisor. Edwards beat St. George in the Sept. 12 primary, 3,482 votes to 1,664 votes, to win the Democrat line in the general election.

The political hopeful said he was initially disappointed by his loss but with time to reflect has put it in perspective.

“It was the first primary for a Democratic town supervisor and 1,600 people came out to vote for us,” St. George said. “It was still a loss, but it was a win in that sense. We got that many people to come out and be involved in the process.”

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards. File photo by Rohma Abbas

St. George said he has sat down with Edwards to talk over the key issues that came up in the primaries and their campaign platforms. They were able to find some common ground, according to the challenger, who said they were in agreement on the need for term limits for elected officials, campaign finance reform, a comprehensive review of the town’s master plan with environmental considerations, and aggressively attacking the problem of heroin/opiate addiction.

“I am able to go back to my supporters and say, ‘This is the candidate we need to get behind,’” St. George said. “In my view, I will do everything I can to help her win as I believe she is the best person for the job in this race right now.”

Edwards will face competition from the Republican candidate, current State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Nov. 7.

Both Democrats agreed that the voter turnout for the Sept. 12 primary was disappointing. There were only 5,000 registered Democrats who cast their ballot for town supervisor candidate out of the more than 50,000 party members registered to vote in the Town of Huntington.

“A long-term project for me as a veteran and a history teacher is to do everything I can to get more people involved in the political process,” St. George said. “We can’t continue to accept low voter turnout as a reality.”

“In my view, I will do everything I can to help [Tracey Edwards] win as I believe she is the best person for the job in this race right now.”

— Darryl St. George

The Northport High School teacher said he hopes to hold a meeting with young leaders sometime in October to discuss what role they play in the politics, how they can get more involved and have a voice in local issues.

His strong belief that active participation is key to the democratic process is part of what inspired St. George to get involved in politics. He first contemplated running for a seat on Huntington town board in 2015, before declaring in February 2017 he would be launching a campaign for town supervisor — months before Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) announced he would not be seeking re-election.

St. George’s decision spurred what will be remembered, at least by many voters, as the first Democratic primary for Huntington Town Supervisor.

“I have a profound sense of gratitude for all the people that came out and participated in this historic event in the town, which includes Tracey’s supporters,” the political hopeful said. “But a special thank you to my supporters, I’ve come to see them as an extended family.”

While St. George said he did not have any specific plans for the future, residents may still see and hear his name.

“I’m not going anywhere. I will continue to stay involved and do what I can to fight for what I believe in,” he said.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine will seek re-election in November. File photo by Alex Petroski

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) got into politics to get things done. After two terms as the town’s leader, which came after a lengthy career working for the county, the 70-year-old Center Moriches resident says he still has a job to do.

“What gets me up every single morning is that I want to build a better Brookhaven,” Romaine said. “This town can look a lot better than it does. I have a sense of purpose and it drives me every day. While I don’t think my job will ever be complete, I hope to leave more good than bad whenever I leave this office — and I work every day to accomplish that.”

The incumbent supervisor will run for a third full term in Brookhaven in an election this November against challenger Jack Harrington (D), a Stony Brook attorney and political newcomer.

Romaine, the former high school history teacher-turned-county legislator, grew up in Bayport and Central Islip, graduated with history and political science degrees from Adelphi and Long Island universities. He said he devotes any time outside town hall to his two grandchildren. If re-elected, Romaine said he will build on his long list of initiatives to move Brookhaven forward.

“What gets me up every single morning is that I want to build a better Brookhaven.”

— Ed Romaine

Since taking over the position from former Supervisor Mark Lesko (D) after a special election in 2012, Romaine has helped pull the township out of its fiscal crisis to become the only municipality on Long Island to pay off all of its pension debt. For the last two years, Brookhaven has secured a AAA bond rating, the highest designation issued by Standard & Poor’s Financial Services of New York City.

A lifelong advocate for environmental preservation, Romaine consistently pushes for greener, cleaner living across Brookhaven and has been endorsed by the Sierra Club and Long Island Environmental Voters Forum during past campaigns. He also pledged a commitment to the Paris agreement in the wake of the June decision of President Donald Trump (R) to withdraw from the climate change agreement.

“I intend to defend the environment,” Romaine said. “I’m a big open-space guy. I believe in preservation because I do not want to see the wave of development that has swept east to west across this Island continue.”

Under Romaine’s supervision, the town created nitrogen protection zones to preserve local waterways, kick-started a multiyear project to convert all of Brookhaven’s streetlights to LED bulbs, opposed dumping of dredge spoils into the Long Island Sound and opposed plans to clear 800 acres of woodlands near the former Shoreham power plant.

In July, the town launched a food scrap composting program at town hall to reduce food waste and use the materials for garden beds around town buildings. Also, more than 100 abandoned homes have been demolished across the hamlets, the supervisor said, in an effort to stamp out eyesores and criminal activity in quaint neighborhoods.

“The thing I like most about this job is you can actually make a difference,” Romaine said, adding that successes are made possible because of a mixed-party town board — four Republicans, one Democrat and one Conservative — that he said votes together 99.9 percent of the time.

He made it clear he works with people of all parties and values common ground.

“It’s less about party affiliations and more about common sense and practicality, and doing what works,” Romaine said. “You’re not coming to put boxing gloves on. You’re coming here to do some heavy lifting and that requires teamwork. I am blessed with six good people who vote together, don’t look to create party differences or personality disputes, which you do see in other towns.”

“His breadth of knowledge is incredibly impressive, and I always learn something when I’m with him.”

— Jane Bonner

High among his Democratic allies is state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who was elected into public office on the same day as Romaine nearly 40 years ago. The two have since worked together on countless issues, oftentimes pertaining to preserving the waterways and natural environment of Brookhaven Town and Long Island as a whole.

During a recent interview, Englebright called Romaine “a peacemaker” who can draw people to their commonalities and pays attention to the things that bring people together.

The assemblyman also credited Romaine with serving as a conduit to Republican state Sens. John Flanagan and Ken LaValle, who have taken up the mantle of inviting local leaders from both parties “into the photo,” so to speak.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said all levels of government could learn a lesson from how Romaine leads Brookhaven.

“He eats and sleeps this job,” Bonner said, adding how effective she believes Romaine is. “A board that works as well as we do together benefits the taxpayer. His breadth of knowledge is incredibly impressive, and I always learn something when I’m with him.”

But for all its strength, Romaine said he’s not blind to Brookhaven’s shortcomings and, on a daily basis, asks himself, “What can we do to make this town better?”

He said he wants to dissolve many special districts in the town in order to cut costs and streamline services, push for better treatment and vocational training facilities for struggling drug addicts, and build better public transportation systems.

At the start of Romaine’s career, he taught history in the Hauppauge school district for 10 years and a parochial school in Cedarhurst for two, all the while writing grants for the school district. In 1980, he entered public service and became Brookhaven’s first commissioner of housing and community development before being appointed director of economic development.

Romaine was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature for two terms, in 1985 and 1987, and became Suffolk County clerk in 1989, a post he served for 16 years.

On the side, he took a job at Dowling College teaching managerial economics for seven years, then moved over to teaching history courses at Suffolk County Community College for another seven before landing at Stony Brook University teaching administrative law at the graduate level in 2005 — the same year he was elected again as county legislator of the 1st Legislative District.

“He will, arguably, go down as one of the most effective, approachable and innovative supervisors in the history of this great town.”

— Jesse Garcia

When he was eventually approached by Jesse Garcia, chairman of the Brookhaven Town Republican Committee, to throw his hat into the ring for supervisor, Romaine hesitated. He said he loved his job as legislator too much.

“I didn’t want to do it,” Romaine recalled. But it was the memory of his late son, former Brookhaven Councilman Keith Romaine, who died in 2009 from pneumonia-related conditions at age 36, that finally convinced him to pursue the position. “I knew if he had lived, he would have been supervisor. Unfortunately, while it’s usually sons that follow fathers, I did it in reverse.”

He said such personal lows in his life have helped inform how he approaches the position.

“The bottom line is, it’s a very short life,” he said. “I didn’t get into politics to call people names. I got into politics to get something done. This job has a lot of frustrations and I’ll be happy when I leave it, but I’m doing my time here because I still have a sense of purpose.”

Garcia said he’s glad Romaine accepted the job when he did.

“What separates Ed Romaine from the rest is just his ability to not look at challenges but look at solutions that benefit the people of this town,” Garcia said, commending the supervisor on his record of tax control, job growth and bipartisanship. “He will, arguably, go down as one of the most effective, approachable and innovative supervisors in the history of this great town.”

Task force inspires local governments to join forces

Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn, Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Laurie Vetere and George Hoffman of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, sign a memorandum of understanding to protect Setauket Harbor Sept. 23. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Cooperation between members of government, especially from differing political parties, is a scarce natural resource these days, but don’t tell that to leaders from Brookhaven Town, Suffolk County and New York State. Setauket Harbor and the surrounding area is set to be the beneficiary of that cooperation, as leaders from each of the three municipalities formed an agreement Sept. 23 aiming to protect the historic and natural resources of the harbor.

“The Parties are committed to conserving, improving, protecting and interpreting Setauket Harbor’s historic and natural resources and environment through preservation of historic sties, wildlife areas and viewsheds to enable appropriate uses of harbor resources,” the agreement read in part. It also stated that preventing, abating and controlling water, land and air pollution will be a part of enhancing the health and safety of the people who live within or visit the Setauket Harbor Watershed.

The agreement is a Memorandum of Understanding, meaning it is not law, but rather a set of guiding principles or a moral commitment to follow in the years ahead.

On Sept. 23, North Shore residents enjoyed Setauket Harbor Day. Photo by Alex Petroski

The cosigners of the document, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station); Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket); state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket); and representatives from the Department of Environmental Conservation and Setauket Harbor Task Force left the agreement open-ended in the hopes that other branches of government and organizations will follow suit. The Setauket Harbor Task Force, a three-year-old community organization dedicated to improving water quality and the marine habitat in the harbor, spearheaded the agreement after finding local levels of government share a common interest in protecting and improving the harbor, though they were working concurrently rather than coordinately in some ways.

The memorandum was signed on a town dock off Shore Road in Setauket as part of the third Setauket Harbor Day, an annual event established by the task force in 2015.

The first mission laid out by the document is to develop a natural and cultural resource inventory of the harbor, which will be a springboard toward creating a management plan designed to achieve the preservation goals of Setauket Harbor and the roughly three-square miles surrounding it, known as the watershed, by acquiring lands within it, preserving historic sites, sharing ideas, engaging in open, ongoing discussions and contributing funds.

“You need to have a starting point and a vision for how all these pieces come together, and I think that’s what’s so great about this designation,” said George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force.

Englebright credited the task force with getting everyone involved and focused on the problems associated with Setauket Harbor, which among others include nitrogen pollution and the presence of coliform bacteria, mostly due to storm water runoff into waterways. The harbor falls within the larger Port Jefferson Harbor Complex, which lets out into the Long Island Sound.

In Sept. 2016, state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) announced he had secured a $1 million grant from the state to be used on enhancing the quality of the harbor’s waters, and the town dock on Shore Road. Englebright thanked Flanagan for his leadership in bringing issues regarding the harbor to light, but a recent annual study completed by Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences still shows the body of water is an area of concern.

“Some of the parcels we’re trying to protect are very vulnerable,” Englebright said. He added although the agreement is only an understanding and not law, he hopes that will change in the future. “What I’m hoping we can do within the context of a completed plan is that we can revisit that question at the state legislative level and write something that may have broad applicability. I think this whole plan has the potential to be a model.”

Romaine said he was excited for the possible benefits to the environment the agreement could bring, but also for the potential economic benefit of a healthier harbor.

On Sept. 23, North Shore residents enjoyed Setauket Harbor Day. Photo by Alex Petroski

“The Harbor has been closed to shell fishing for more than 10 years,” he said. “We’d like to see it open up. We’d like to see some of the contaminants eliminated from this harbor so that it can restore itself. It’s very important to the town. I want to thank Steve because he’s done tremendous work, and we’ve worked together as colleagues for more than 35 years.”

Hahn suggested homes in the watershed could be prime candidates for Suffolk County’s Septic Improvement Program, an initiative that offers funds to homeowners within the county to replace outdated cesspools and septic system, which are major contributors to nitrogen pollution in waterways.

The federal government is not currently on board as part of the agreement, though DEC Regional Director Carrie Meek Gallagher said she expects that to change once a plan is in motion. The significance of the collaboration across party lines and municipality lines in lockstep with a community group like the task force was not lost on Cartright.

“This should be a prime example of how government on all levels should work together with the community,” she said.

Kevin McAllister, the founder of the nonprofit Defend H20, said while the agreement is a positive step, it will be largely symbolic if it is not followed up with action, and more importantly, funding.

“Providing greater funding for a host of projects, land acquisition, more protective zoning, denying shoreline hardening permits — these type actions, individually and collectively will define the resolve as put forth in the MOU,” he said in an email.

Englebright implored members of the public and community groups to not only get on board, but to take the additional step of holding elected officials to the terms of the agreement, including those who come after the incumbent lawmakers.

From left, Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport), Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Ken Kashansky, Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Fred S. Sganga, Tom DiNapoli (D) and Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) look on as U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and resident of Unit 3C Joe Rohan cuts the ribbon. Photo by Doreen Guma
Ribbon cutting ceremony officially opens first renovated residential unit

The Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook recently celebrated a milestone in Operation Rejuvenation, a project that will help renovate the interior of the existing facility, with the opening of its first renovated residential unit, 3C. The event was celebrated with a ribbon cutting on Aug. 25.

The project was made possible by a $12.5 million VA Construction Grant, one of the oldest partnerships between the federal government and the states. Each year, through the support of Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the federal government allocates approximately $85 million to fund the State Veterans Home Construction Grant Program. Through this initiative, individual states compete for funding that must be used to either construct or renovate designated state veterans facilities that provide skilled nursing or domiciliary care.

The federal government appropriates 65 percent of the construction costs provided that each state makes a commitment of 35 percent in state matching funds, for which New York State Senator John Flanagan has been instrumental in helping the LISVH secure.

The newly renovated nursing units include a modernized and open dining space, an accessible nourishment station, a complete nursing station redesign and fully renovated living spaces for residents. This project included the installation of energy-efficient LED lighting, LED televisions and new personal furnishings that our nation’s heroes will be proud to call home.

“The Long Island State Veterans Home has always made a commitment to be the premiere provider for long-term care services to our nation’s heroes,” said Fred S. Sganga, executive director of the Long Island State Veterans Home. “Operation Rejuvenation will assure that our frail, elderly veterans are living in the finest facility in the country. We are really excited about this project because it represents the recommitment of Stony Brook University to Long Island’s veterans and their families.”

“Our veterans were willing to put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect our freedom and way of life,” said Zeldin. “We owe it to them to make sure the facilities that care for our veterans are in the best condition possible to meet their needs. The work being done at the Long Island State Veterans Home will help accomplish that goal, and I commend the leadership and staff for undertaking this project.”

“Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to those who have protected our way of life and cherished freedoms,” said Flanagan. “One way we can say ‘thank you’ to them is by making sure these brave men and women have a comfortable living environment. The Long Island State Veterans Home has been a great resource for our veterans and their families and this project will help ensure that it continues to be a place that our heroes are proud to call home,” he said.

A Smithtown business owner has put her name on the November ballot to give residents a third option when voting for town supervisor.

Kristen Slevin, 40-year-old owner of Yottabyte Craft Chocolate and Candy in Smithtown, has launched her own independent campaign for Smithtown town supervisor. A prior vice president of Swan Lake Civic Association, this is her first time running for political office.

Slevin, a Smithtown resident and Hauppauge High School graduate, shed light on her jump from business owner to political candidate.

Kristen Slevin

“As a business, we feel we are a member of the community, we have a voice and we should leverage our voices for things we believe in,” she said of her business perspective.

Slevin said after seeing her community get energized by the 2016 presidential election, she launched an advocacy group on Facebook titled Smithtown Election Watch 2017.

“People had all this energy and enthusiasm to get involved in national issues, meanwhile our local downtowns are disappearing right before us,” Slevin said.

Slevin and a team of approximately a dozen volunteers began July 11 rounding up 1,781 signatures from registered Smithtown voters, exceeding the minimum 1,500 required under state law, for an independent candidate to run in the general election. Her campaign slogan is “None of the Above.”

The independent campaign platform focuses on fixing an “obsolete” town code, addressing blight in the downtown business areas and the creation of historic districts and town council districts. One of the first projects on her radar, if elected, would be to embark on a full review of town code, its policies and procedures, as the candidate said she had found it difficult to read through and impossible to search.

“Other things I am concerned about are if the towns are suffering from intentional blight,” Slevin said. “Some landlords might have multiple properties, here or in other towns, that they allow this property to go vacant and are taking the tax credit against what they are making in more successful rentals.”

If elected, she said she would consider introducing new tax codes to increase rates on properties with long-standing vacant buildings to encourage owners to either rent or sell. Slevin said other municipalities in New York and other neighboring states have adopted such programs.

“People had all this energy and enthusiasm to get involved in national issues, meanwhile our local downtowns are disappearing right before us.”
— Kristen Slevin

In addition to addressing blight, the business owner said she’d like to see Smithtown, Kings Park and Lake Avenue in Saint James be recognized as historic districts.

“Our philosophy should be that they are quaint, small-town U.S. towns right here,” Slevin said. “While so many other places are being built up and becoming more city like, we are going to hold on to our small-town vision here.”

The candidate said she’s not against the integrated development of mixed-use properties that combine retail space with apartments designed for students, singles and senior residents. Slevin said it’s her belief that mixed-use properties would provide a more diversified business base and community that over time would strengthen the local economy.

Her platform also proposes splitting the Smithtown town board into council districts, similar to the Town of Brookhaven, to improve elected officials’ accountability.

“If everyone had their own councilperson elected from their district, they are both aware of the issues in their districts and they can be held accountable,” she said.

Slevin said she did weigh running for the town board seat prior to launching a campaign for supervisor. However, she felt that the town codes give the supervisor position significantly more power and control over other elected town officials, something she plans to remedy if elected.

Slevin will face off in the Nov. 7 against Democratic candidate William Holst (D) and the winner of the still undecided Republican primary between incumbent Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) and Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R). The Republican primary results will not be available until after Sept. 25.

Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) discusses red light cameras during a press conference in Miller Place Sept. 21. Photo by Kevin Redding

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) is calling for an investigation into the county’s annual Red Light Camera Program Report, which he said has purposefully, and illegally, eliminated data on car accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists.

Trotta stood with fellow legislators and colleagues Sept. 21 at the intersection of Route 25A and Miller Place Road in Miller Place to address his ongoing concerns with a lack of available statistics surrounding accidents, injuries and deaths due to the county’s red light camera program, highlighting a conversation he had last month with a traffic engineer of Nelson & Pope, the company that prepares the annual reports.

The traffic engineer, according to Trotta, advised him that the company was instructed not to include the pedestrian and bicyclist-involved accidents at red light camera locations in reports, in order to paint a better picture of the program. The reports are submitted to the state and made available to the public. The most recent report was released in April and highlighted statistics for 2015. While pedestrian and bicycle-involved accidents have been reported in a scattered few reports since the program began in 2010, the data has not been included in the last two years’ reports.

Trotta said the data exclusion is a violation of the state’s motor vehicle and traffic law, which states the mandatory annual report must include the number, type and severity of all accidents reported at these intersections with traffic control devices.

He also said it is not clear who is behind the data exclusion, the county or the company behind the red light camera program, but urged the state attorney general to get involved so the guilty party can be held accountable.

“How can anybody adequately look at the positive or negative features of a program when they’re not getting all the data?” Trotta said during the press conference. The legislator has long been opposed to the program, which he said he believes is the cause of an uptick in accidents throughout the area and is merely a ticket and revenue-generating scam by the county. “There are multiple reasons why this program should be shut down immediately and I’m aghast by the fact that we’re doing nothing and we are lying to the public by not including the pedestrians and the bicyclists. When I found about this, I couldn’t believe it.”

Trotta was joined by Legislators Leslie Kennedy (R-Smithtown) and Tom Muratore (R-Selden), as well as county legislature candidate Gary Pollakusky (R), at the busy intersection where two teenagers have died after being struck by cars, which features red light cameras.

“We lost a child here on a bicycle and a child here as a pedestrian,” Trotta said, referring to 14-year-old Nico Signore who died earlier this year, and 16-year-old John Luke, who died in 2015. “But I guess that doesn’t mean anything to anybody because they’re not even including [those accidents] in the report. I absolutely think there’s cohersion with the county and this company to keep the money stream coming in. This entire program is just a calamity of errors.”

Pollakusky said he supports the suspension of the red light camera program due to its negative impact on public safety.

“The red light camera program is a money grab by [County Executive Steve Bellone] and the Democrats in the Legislature and has been sold to the public as a public safety program — it is anything but safe,” Pollakusky said, stressing that accidents have increased after the red light cameras were installed.

He also took issue with his opponent, Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who initially voted against the program but has since come to agree with its mission of changing poor traffic.

“[She] is famous for saying ‘if it saves one child’s life,’ it’s worth it [but] this program that you and your cohorts support, Mrs. Anker, has hurt innocent drivers, pedestrians and children alike,” Pollakusky said.

Personal injury lawyer David Raimondo, based in Lake Grove, represents the Luke family and pointed to an omission of data, including fatalities of pedestrians in auto accidents, in a presentation before the Suffolk County Legislature in 2014 led to the red light camera program’s renewal.

“It’s up for renewal in 2019 and if we don’t have the proper data before the Legislature, it will continue to be renewed and we cannot let that happen,” Raimondo said. “It’s very important this program come to an end, it be suspended and that the suffering of the taxpayers of Suffolk County — both financially and physically — end.”

Incumbent Smithtown town councilmembers Thomas McCarthy (R) and Lynne Nowick (R) have beaten Republican Party-endorsed challengers Robert Doyle and Thomas Lohmann based on the unofficial Sept. 12 primary results. File photos

By Kevin Redding

Smithtown’s incumbents appear to have won the Sept. 12 Republican town board primary, but there are absentee ballots to be counted and the challengers aren’t backing down.

Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) has come out on top in the four-candidate race with 2,929 votes while Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) followed with 2,833 votes. Coming in third and fourth were challengers Bob Doyle (R) with 2,575 votes and Thomas Lohmann (R) with 2,543 votes, respectively, according to unofficial Suffolk County Board of Elections results posted Sept. 13.

Bob Doyle. Photo by Nicole Garguilo

“With Nowick and McCarthy, there are a number of absentees out,” said Bill Ellis, the Smithtown Republican Committee chairman. “I think Lynne Nowick will prevail, [but] there’s still an opportunity for Doyle and Lohmann to surpass McCarthy. It’s a bit of a long shot, but it’s a possibility.”

Nick LaLota, Republican commissioner for the county board of elections, said there are 322 absentee ballots as of Sept. 13. He said he expects the county may still receive a few dozen additional ballots over the next week. Absentee ballots must have be postmarked by Sept. 11 and received by the county by Sept. 19 to be valid.

Nowick, who was first elected to the board in 2013 and has served as an elected official for 22 years, has focused her bid for re-election on keeping taxes low, getting sewers into downtown areas like Kings Park and St. James, and maintaining Smithtown’s quality of life including its parks, beaches and roads.

“I, of course, am very happy to have been so successful,” Nowick said, of the town council results. “I think a lot of that success was that Councilman McCarthy and I worked for the town and cared for the town. When you’re here a lot of years and you’ve helped a lot of constituents along the way, make no mistake, constituent services are very important. When you help people for many years, it resonates.”

She said her sights are now set on the Nov. 7 election with plans to utilize the same campaign strategy.

“Look, this is what we’ve accomplished, this is who we are, and that is what we’ll run on in November,” Nowick said.

Tom Lohmann. Photo by Johnny Cirillo

McCarthy, deputy town supervisor who has been on the town board since 1998 and, if re-elected, said he looks forward to continuing his service to Smithtown residents alongside Nowick.

“I’m pleased that the voters saw fit to elect me,” McCarthy said. “It proves that all the hard work we do on a daily basis is appreciated and we appreciate their votes. We’ve had so many good initiatives that I’m happy to have championed over the last four years.”

The councilman has spearheaded multiple projects to revitalize the downtown areas — most recently pushing the infrastructure rebuilding of Lake Avenue in St. James and working to develop sewers with $40 million in state funds.

Doyle, a retired Suffolk homicide detective from Nesconset, and Lohmann, a former New York City police officer from Smithtown, ran on similar agendas to restore the town’s former glory, including its infrastructure, and create a more transparent board.

Despite being disappointed in the results and low-voter turnout, both challengers said they have every intention of continuing to run on the Independent and Conservative party lines in November.

“I am encouraged by the numbers and how well Tom Lohmann and I did against two very powerful incumbents,” Doyle said. “I’m looking forward to Election Day and taking our message to all of the voters in the Town of Smithtown. We truly believe we will be victorious in November. The fight has just begun.”

Lohmann echoed the sentiment.

“I plan to go forward with my quest into the general election and we’ll let the people decide,” Lohmann said. “I’ve never walked away from anything in my life, and I’m not starting now.”

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