Politics

Dr. Caroline Englehardt and Dr. Richard Rusto were elected to the Belle Terre village board.

Village of Belle Terre residents have spoken, electing a newcomer candidate over an incumbent during a village election June 18.

  • Incumbent candidate Dr. Richard Rusto retained his seat with 106 votes.
  • Newcomer candidate Dr. Caroline Englehardt won a seat with the most votes of all candidates at 108.
  • Incumbent candidate Judy Zaino received the least number of votes at 96.

In addition, there were 24 write-in candidates.

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From left, Kathianne Snaden, Margot Garant and Stan Loucks just after learning the election results Photo by Kyle Barr

The results are as follows:

Unity Party candidates

  • Margot Garant (Incumbent) 1519
  • Stan Loucks (Incumbent) 1387
  • Kathianne Snaden 1383

Residents First Party candidates

  • John Jay LaValle 1013
  • Thomas Meehan 1230
  • Tracey Stapleton 1009

Two separate restaurants and bars in Port Jeff told two different stories the night of June 18, election night in the village. In Tommy’s Place, where the Residents First Party candidates learned of results, the air buzzed with cool conversation throughout the room, offering condolences and thinking about next moves.

In Old Fields Restaurant, with the Unity Party candidates, the room exploded with noise once the results came through. Mayor Margot Garant stood up on a chair, her brow sheened in sweat from the packed bar area and addressed the crowd.

“I have chosen unity and community for the last 12 years, and I’m so proud that everyone who lives here, who comes and plays in our parks, who visits our restaurants, who comes and visits for a day is always welcome and always will be welcome in this village,” she said to cheers of the gathered crowd. “I am going to tell you right now, every store that’s vacant, let’s get it rented tomorrow.”

Mayoral challenger John Jay LaValle was considerate once the results came through, saying they ran their case on the issues.

“This was going to be a race of a referendum on Donald Trump or a referendum on the uptown and downtown of Port Jeff and unfortunately that was their game; we were focused on uptown and downtown,” he said.

He said he wishes the best for Garant, adding he hopes she focuses on uptown revitalization and starts working with business owners to get businesses back into downtown.

“Stan Loucks and Kathianne Snaden are real class acts, they ran a nice race and I really gained a good deal of respect for them,” he said. “At the end of the day we’re all residents and we want to see Port Jefferson succeed
and thrive.”

Incumbent trustee Loucks said the vote was a mandate to move forward with current plans.

“The village has spoken, I think the village is happy with the administration, and they came out today to support them,” he said. “They know we are on the right track, and I think in two to three years we will have proven it to them.”

Newcomer candidate Snaden was close to tears as she spoke to the crowd in Old Fields, saying she looks at Loucks as a father figure and Garant as a “wonder woman.”

“Thank you to everyone who believed in me and supported me” she said. “I plan to do what I said all along, and that is to be the voice of the families in the village.”

Trustee candidate Tracey Stapleton said she wishes the best for those elected, and that hopefully the village can come together after what was a divisive time for a few months.

Mayor Margot Garant addresses the crowd at Old Fields Restaurant the night of June 18. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I hope everyone can be a little together now,” she said. “Just work to get Port Jeff on a good path.”

Garant has been mayor of Port Jeff for close to a decade, and in that time has been head of the village through numerous hurdles, from Upper Port being declared with blight to the settlement with the Town of Brookhaven and the Long Island Power Authority over the Port Jefferson Power Station.

LaValle was councilperson and supervisor of the Town of Brookhaven from 1996 to 2005. Afterward he became Suffolk County Republican Party chairperson, advocating for Republican causes for over a decade before stepping down at the beginning of this year. 

The Port Jefferson Village Center bustled with activity June 18 as thousands braved the rain, streamed through the doors and huddled over election ballots.

This year’s mayoral race has been contentious, as camps of supporters for Garant and LaValle butted heads over a number of issues, including the blight in Upper Port, empty storefronts downtown and the tax assessment settlement between the Town of Brookhaven and the Long Island Power Authority over its Port Jefferson Power Station.

Garant said she was looking forward to another two years as village head.

“I’m elated I get to work two more years for the village,” she said. “Just want to thank the people who trusted me, I wish my opponents well, and we’re going to carry on.”

 

Patrick Young advocates for the Green Light NY bill to pass in the state legislature at the June 7 rally in Hauppauge. Photo by David Luces

Immigrant rights groups, religious leaders, labor union groups and residents rallied in Hauppauge June 7 to advocate for a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. 

People at the June 7 rally held signs supporting Green Light NY bill. Photo by David Luces

Proponents of the bill argue that it would improve public safety and the economy. The bill would require undocumented immigrants to take a driver’s license exam and be able to buy car insurance.  

“We are disappointed that the six Democratic senators have not come out in favor of Green Light yet,” said Patrick Young, program director of the Hempstead-based Central American Refugee Center. 

Jay Jacobs, the Nassau County Democratic chairman, recently said he called the six senators who represent Long Island to warn them about the potential political backlash of supporting the bill, according to an article in Gothamist.  

“Jay Jacobs advised them not to support the bill,” Young said. “There may be opposition to the bill, but the people who voted for [the senators] did oppose Green Light.”

According to Young, many of the senators campaigned in support of the bill but now have changed their stance. One of those he said in particular was New York State Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood). 

“She said she would support it, now she’s saying she’s not supporting it,” he said. “We need her to come back on board.” 

After the rally, volunteers began calling the six Long Island state senators in hopes of getting them to reconsider their stance on the bill. 

“We told them if you don’t vote for it for political reasons, we will start this campaign back up again in January,” he said. “This is not going away.”

Republicans in the state legislature have shared opposition to the Green Light NY bill, with many arguing that allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses would leave county clerks and employees at local Departments of Motor Vehicles unable to truly verify authenticity.  

“We must put the brakes on this unfair proposal which ignores the overwhelming opposition of our citizens to grant this privilege to illegal immigrants,” said New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in a release. “We must red light the Green Light bill that simply opens up our system to fraud and places a burden on county clerks and DMV employees to verify the authenticity of foreign documents as proof of identification,” 

New York State Sen. Ken LaValle had similar sentiments. 

Patrick Young advocates for the Green Light NY bill to pass in the state legislature at the June 7 rally in Hauppauge. Photo by David Luces

“I was a member of a New York State Senate Task Force on Immigration and I have studied this issue at great length,” he said in a release. “I remain steadfast in my position that granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants is not good public policy, presents a clear threat to public safety and sends a wrong message to the law-abiding people I represent,”

Ivan Larios, of the New York Immigration Coalition, said there are misconceptions with this bill, one being that it will somehow allow undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship. 

“The bill will allow them to purchase a vehicle and get insurance,” he said. “And do everything by the books.”

Larios said in some cases many individuals decide to drive without a license and take the risk of being pulled over, though if they were to get into an accident it would leave them in a tough situation. 

“This is very important for families because it allows them to take their kids to school, go to work, do everyday stuff, said Larios. “And they would have to go through the same process [of getting a license] just like you and me have to go through.”

The bill has passed through the state assembly but is facing some opposition by Democrats, even in a Democrat-controlled state senate. The measure is expected to be voted on in the upcoming weeks. 

Young said every other Democratic in the state is supporting the bill and they have 25 co-sponsors as well as another six senators that would vote for the bill 

“Though none of them are from Long Island and that is horrific,” he said.

The Belle Terre village board. File photo by Kyle Barr

Two seats are up for Village of Belle Terre trustee positions, where two incumbents and one newcomer are looking for residents’ votes come June 18.

Judy Zaino

Judy Zaino

Zaino, an incumbent and longtime Belle Terre resident, is looking for another two years on the board.

She is a 21-year resident of Belle Terre and said she became extremely active in village life after she retired in 2005. 

Prior to being on the board, she was involved with the Belle Terre Community Association working alongside the village to augment various projects, including redoing the wall in front of the Belle Terre Community Center, parks projects, garden tours and other programs.

“In my own opinion, giving back to your community is a very noble thing to do,” she said.

After being asked to be trustee by the board, she said the village has been working on road and drainage repairs, erosion control on village property, maintenance of the community center and managing the beach, which is used by both Belle Terre and Port Jefferson villages.

In addition, she said the village is in the midst of upgrading the beach facilities with handicapped bathrooms and upgrades to the existing building, and she said she has worked, along with the rest of the board, in getting the cell tower in Belle Terre up and running.

“For the safety of the community, if you lived in one part of Port Jefferson and your teenager was somewhere else, you had communication with them because of the cell service,” Zaino said. “Prior to that it was really spotty.”

She said that she, and fellow incumbent Richard Musto, have been frontrunners on dealing with the deer and tick issue in the village.

Dr. Richard Musto

Dr. Richard Musto

As a resident since 1984, Musto is looking to continue his efforts on the board for the third year and his second term.

Musto, who has held several leadership roles in urology in hospitals across Long Island and is now retired, said he got onto the board through a desire to know what was going on in his hometown. He was asked to fill in the term of one retired trustee and was elected in 2017 to the board.

“I went to meetings and started asking questions, so they asked if I would like to be on the deer committee,” he said. “I’ve always been on committees, so it was really kind of interesting and fun to do.”

After his work on the deer committee, he said the village has been looking for ways to decrease the tick population, and officials have been in contact with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

He said he has also become involved in village security through its security cameras. He said the village is also looking at certain roads and looking to upgrade amenities at the village beach.

“I find it extremely interesting to find how a local government works,” he said. “I find it amazing for such a small village to see all the things that are involved and all the things you have to be aware of and know about.”

Dr. Caroline Engelhardt

Dr. Caroline Engelhardt

Newcomer Engelhardt, a 23-year resident of the village, said she is running to try and put a little energy behind village policy. She said she is uncommon in Belle Terre, as other candidates have been appointed to the board after other trustees retire instead of being elected to the position.

“We have the same people running all the time — I’m actually running as a candidate,” she said. “I’m running because I want to see change in Belle Terre.”

Engelhardt said now that her youngest daughter is out of the house in college, she has time to work for her village. She is a practicing anesthesiologist with degrees from New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, and said she is a community-minded person who works to make people feel better. 

“I’ve been taking care of the community medically for 25 years,” she said. “I have a lot of energy. I can be seen walking through the village at 5 in the morning.”

She’s running on several points. One is to add more amenities to the beach, such as looking to bring in a food truck that could help feed people as they’re enjoying the sand and surf. She also said she would focus on getting roads repaired and working with the Long Island Power Authority to clear tree limbs hanging near power lines. In terms of erosion, she said she is wary of any sort of wall being built without careful consideration and was especially concerned that a wall would stop erosion in one location and create more erosion in another. She said she would like to see the village form a committee in order to deal with erosion on village property.

“We have to protect that property,” she said.

The vote will be held at the Belle Terre Community Center on 55 Cliff Road from 12 to 9 p.m. June 18. 

Village Mayor Margot Garant, left, and John Jay LaValle, right. File photos

As signs for both candidates are loudly displayed across the village in preparation for the June 18 vote, mayoral challenger John Jay LaValle and incumbent Mayor Margot Garant stepped into the TBR News Media offices June 10 to share real policy about the ongoing issues in Port Jeff.

Staff issues

LaValle has made clear his issues with some village employees. Specifically, he referenced Parking and Mobility Administrator Kevin Wood. He has compared it to Patchogue, where two parking meter officers are each paid just under $65,000 annually to write tickets and manage the meters. 

Wood is paid a similar salary to the two officers, though Garant said he is in charge of repairs and IT work involving the way the meters send information to the code enforcement in regard to timed meters. She added Wood has been involved in other village programs, such as the Jitney and cameras around the village.

“He runs around the village in addition to what he oversees in our parking,” she said.

LaValle called that a false equivalency between Patchogue and Port Jeff’s parking administrations. He called Wood “your [public relations] guy” — there’s not a moment I don’t see him following you around with a camera.”

Garant said in addition to his duties as village employee, he creates video for the village with his company FPS Inc. at $12,000 a year.

“He never does that when he’s on the clock, he’s always off the clock.” Garant said.

LaValle said he does not believe Wood was qualified for the position.

Crime

LaValle said the uptown area has become intense in its illicit activity and said there has not been enough done to rectify it. He cites prostitution, drug dealing and a murder that occurred in July of last year just outside the Port Jefferson Billiards BDM.

He said in speaking to law enforcement that numerous buildings are fronts for drugs and prostitution, and they are currently collecting data.

“We literally have a slum right in front of us,” he said. “It’s literally a ghetto, and that’s the kind of thing that occurs there.”

The mayor said she talked consistently with the Suffolk County Police Department about illicit activity in Upper Port. She called her current relationship with the SCPD “the best it has been,” and added the security cameras having been hooked up to the county’s Real Time Crime Center is making strides in enforcing a police presence.

Garant said code enforcement is up at the station for every train and has helped bring in MTA police into the station, but she added they have no powers of arrest and can only create a presence and deal with immediate situations while waiting for police.

LaValle said the major issue with why crime has become so bad in Upper Port is due to the lethargic rate of the area’s revitalization.

Upper Port Jeff revitalization

Garant said part of the issue in redeveloping Upper Port comes down to the developers and owners of the uptown properties to manage their buildings. She said they had assisted in getting certain property owners government grants to demolish a particular property, but the negotiations with other developers stalled that progress and the grant funds were timed out, adding the problem is owners need to amass enough property in order to start real construction.

“We’re doing everything we can between revising the code, getting state grant money and partner to make applications to state agencies,” she said. 

As a last resort, she said the village would have to use eminent domain on these particular properties.

The mayoral challenger said in speaking with developers they are upset with the village, mostly in terms of getting permits for their properties. He said the planning staff have been restrictive in getting their applications through, except for specific developers.

“It shouldn’t take 10 years to take what is clearly an eyesore and turn it into a thriving uptown,” he said. “We need to bring the project to a finish, give the individuals their permits.”

The mayor said none of the developers are currently in the application process for permits. 

“The fact that people keep throwing the planning department under the rails … if he doesn’t have an application in,” she said.

She added the village is waiting for the Conifer Realty property, located in the old Bada Bing parcel, before putting in Station Street as part of her administration’s Uptown Funk project.

“You have to be careful with the density you give them, we’re only talking about four small blocks here,” Garant said.

The mayoral challenger said he does not support the Conifer development, citing an experience with them in Brookhaven Town and a need for “workforce housing, not affordable housing,” saying that affordable will eventually become Section 8 housing. He said village code should be changed to mandate affordable units in any new apartment complexes.

How the village will resist floods

With the potential for future storm surges and the threat of rising tides, Garant said the village is currently bringing a presentation to the Long Island Economic Development Council to request grant funding in terms of flood mitigation and stormwater runoff. 

She added that her administration is spending money to scope out the village’s drainage system, and the village is looking to find ways to absorb the water so it does not flood onto the village’s hardscape. 

“We’re in a bowl … these are low-lying marshland areas, it’s a great challenge,” she said. “There’s no magic bullet.”

LaValle said the village needs to look globally when it comes to flood mitigation.

“You got to bring in the best of the best, and I don’t know if we’re doing that,” he said.

Port Jefferson residents can vote on mayor and trustee candidates Tuesday, June 18, at the Village Center from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

From left, John Jay LaValle, Margot Garant, Tom Meehan, Stan Loucks, Tracy Stapleton and Kathianne Snaden at the June 6 meet-the-candidates night. Photo by David Ackerman

A crowd packed itself as tight as sardines into the Village Center June 6, all to have the six people looking to be the village’s next mayor and trustees show just what makes them worthy of residents’ votes.

Four people are looking to fill two trustee seats, while two heavy hitters are asking for residents’ vote for mayor. The Resident’s First Party includes candidate John Jay LaValle and newcomer trustee candidates Tom Meehan and Tracy Stapleton. The Unity Party includes incumbent Mayor Margot Garant, trustee Stan Loucks and newcomer candidate Kathianne Snaden.

Turn to Page 5 to read  a number of highlights from the near-three-hour debate.

Impact of the LIPA settlement and glide path

With the settlement between the Town of Brookhaven, Port Jefferson Village and Long Island Power Authority into its second year, candidates disagree just how much of an impact the loss in tax revenue from the power plant will have.

Unity Party candidates said that while the Shipyard apartments still have a few years to go before their Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement is up, that, and new and incoming apartment complexes, will help offset the loss of revenue from the LIPA settlement while they look for means to repurpose the plant in the near future.

“The average home is only paying $35 per year more in taxes, and that’s in year two of the glide path,” Snaden said.

Port Jefferson candidates say their piece. Photo by David Ackerman

The incumbent trustee added the village has already started attempting to take over some school programs to help offset their revenue loss, including sports programs.

Meanwhile, Residents Party candidates say increased taxes will hurt some residents more than others.

“Fortunately, I can afford them, but I have a 90-year-old mother in the village, and I’m not sure she can,” Meehan said.

LaValle said the glide path will only do more harm to the village, which will need to cut spending. He added that “it’s not a glide path, it’s a free fall.”

Wages of Port Jefferson employees

Residents First candidates targeted some $10,000 raises that certain employees received in this year’s budget. Meehan said they would need to look at those employees and other programs would “need to be looked at” to help offset lost tax revenue.

Garant fired back saying those employees got raises that need to compete with wages they could receive in the private sector. “They all work hard, and as far as I’m concerned, we would pay them more if we could,” she said.

School safety

Snaden was adamant that not enough has been done to facilitate communications between the school district and village officials in case of an emergency. She cited a school shooting threat for the Port Jefferson high school that was posted to social media in February 2018.

“There was zero communication between the school district and village residents,” she said, especially in knowing where children would be located if they were evacuated. 

The district had sent an email to parents that night of the scare, though Snaden said she had contacted the mayor’s office and said they were unaware the investigation was ongoing. She said the district should have some sort of information pipeline to the village in case of emergencies. She says nothing has been done since she brought this proposal to the district.

Meehan, the Edna Louise Spear Elementary School principal, took exception to this. 

“I’ve been involved in many emergency situations,” he said. “We do have plans, we don’t make them public. We do not want the bad guy finding out about them.”

He added, in terms of evacuations, the district did not want to initially reveal where students would be evacuated in order to aid in their safety and the parents’ safety.

“We can’t have the parents all rushing up to the schools,” he said.

Business in Port Jeff

LaValle and his party have made empty storefronts a big part of their campaign, saying during the debate the number of businesses filing tax grievances will lead to higher taxes for residents. He specifically hit on issues of blight uptown.

“It does not take 10 years to do that project,” he said. “Like I did in the Town of Brookhaven, I will establish an architectural and historical review board that will maintain the integrity … of our heritage.”

Garant responded it has not taken 10 years, but the village had constructed a master plan that was adopted in 2016, not to mention the blight review study and other state-mandated tasks a municipality must complete before an area can be redeveloped after it is declared blighted.

“We don’t have a lot of space, and we’re trying to encourage the right developer, a careful developer, someone who is going to be in tune with the Village of Port Jefferson.”

Port Jefferson candidates say their piece. Photo by David Ackerman

She specifically cited The Hills complex in Upper Port.

The candidates largely agreed on the importance of these new apartment complexes for incentivizing walkability and patronizing businesses, though Stapleton in particular emphasized the need for finding ways to speed up the permitting process for new businesses coming into the village.

“It’s too difficult and it takes too long,” she said.

Garant said they have had multiple projects go up in less than two years’ time from start to finish, and pointed to places like Chandler Square, where she said a previous board had allowed buildings with a lack of parking spaces.

“When a building is put down by a board that just expedites, they have 12 parking spaces for that entire building right on a three-lane road,” she said.

LaValle said businesses are leaving because the village is not business friendly, pointing to Brewology which moved to Huntington.

“We’ve got to clean this place up first,” he said. “We have to improve our image.”

Loucks said the major issues come in the form of rents, which he said can be as high as $37,000 like it had in the case of the now-empty Gap building. Unity Party candidates said the board was working with the landlord to help in acquiring a new tenant. They also cited a new business, an Italian restaurant, coming into the old Graceful Rose property.

“Things aren’t as bad as they sound,” Loucks said.

Check back later today for a one-on-one breakdown of the mayoral candidate’s positions.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) during a press conference at Port Jefferson Harbor. The LIPA power plant can be seen in the distance. File photo by David Luces

As the federal government under the current presidential administration has scaled back environmental measures — and at points denied the science behind climate change —members in the New York State Legislature are trying to go about it without the leadership of Uncle Sam.

That is, if it can pass before the end of legislative session.

“New York has to help lead the way, because we’re not getting any leadership at the federal level,” said Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket). 

“You can just look at the weather reports for the nation — last year California burned, this year Texas is drowning. The amount of rain we’re getting is a result of an overheated ocean relaying more rain to the atmosphere. And on it goes.”

— Steve Englebright

Englebright, the chair of the environmental conservation committee, is sponsoring the Climate and Community Protection Act, which would establish a New York State Climate Action Council. It would contain 25 members made up of state agencies, scientists and those in the environmental justice, labor and other regulated industries. The council would be able to make recommendations to the state Department of Environmental Conservation to limit greenhouse gases. It would also be asked to report on barriers to and opportunities for community ownership of services and commodities in certain communities, particularly for renewable energy.

“An advisory committee that will have meaningful powers to make recommendations as we go forward — the stakes are so high on this issue,” Englebright said.

In addition, the bill would require the DEC to establish greenhouse gas reporting requirements and limits on emissions.

The bill was passed in the environmental committee and was referred to the ways and means committee in February.

The idea of an advisory committee is not new. A similar advisory panel was suggested in the New York State 2019-20 budget, but it was removed in the final version because some legislators disagreed with the number of people on the board and who would sit on it.

“Instead of 25, [Cuomo] had nine appointees; six of them are his cabinet members,” Englebright said.

In January during the process for crafting the budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) incited a “Green New Deal,” which would have been “comprised of the heads of relevant state agencies and other workforce, environmental justice and clean energy experts,” according to a January press release. The governor has set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New York State by 80 percent below the levels emitted in 1990 by the year 2050.

A spokesperson from the governors office said the governor is continuing to collaborate with the legislature on climate policy proposals.

Cuomo appeared on city radio WNYC’s show hosted by Brian Lehrer June 3. When the new climate change legislation was brought up, he said he was looking to attack the issue while not pretending change will happen all at once.

“I believe this is the most pressing issue of our time, but I don’t want to play politics with it and I don’t want to tell people we can move to a carbon free economy in a period of time that I know that we can’t.”

The end of this legislative session is June 19, and Englebright said he is crossing his fingers the bill can pass both assembly and senate before time runs out. 

He said the bill is especially important with the current administration in Washington. The New York Times reported June 3 that 84 environmental rules and regulations are being phased out by Trump and his appointees.

“We are seeing the effects of increased carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere on a daily basis,” he said. “You can just look at the weather reports for the nation — last year California burned, this year Texas is drowning. The amount of rain we’re getting is a result of an overheated ocean relaying more rain to the atmosphere. And on it goes.”

Birds chirping, kids playing, barbecues firing up are just the typical sounds of summer in suburbia. 

Though with summer season close by, many residents living along the North Shore will once again have to contend with increased helicopter traffic and noise due to a known helicopter route that flies directly over the heads of many residential communities.

Despite the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 signed into law by President Donald Trump six months ago, which would require the Federal Aviation Administration to reassess the North Shore Helicopter Route, many residents and elected officials feel that the FAA hasn’t taken enough action on the issue and argue that the public workshops held in November 2018 on Long Island were inadequate. 

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) sent a letter to the acting regional director of the FAA, Maria Stanco, on May 10 stating the agency should take immediate action to address the aircraft noise on the North Fork. This is Zeldin’s second letter to the FAA calling for them to comply with the legislation’s requirement to hold real public hearings in the communities impacted by the North Shore route. 

“The ‘workshops’ held on Long Island last year did not meet the clear mandates of the law and insulted my constituents,” Zeldin stated in the letter. “The use of the questionable, insufficient format not only silenced the voices of the public but was perceived as a clear attempt by the FAA to diminish the serious impact of the NSR and the negative quality of life impacts that resulted to the North Fork.” 

In preparation of the workshops held in November, the FAA accepted public comments from residents, where 337 people responded. 

John Cullen of Riverhead left a comment in February asking what the FAA thinks of the 336 comments and will there ever be a public hearing held by them.  

“Not a single aircraft lands on the North Shore, yet the commercial helicopters need to fly over 18 miles above homes which includes northeast Queens and northwest Nassau County,” he said.

Tim Sinclair said the current practice of helicopter traffic across the Southold area is terrible. 

“An all-water route that avoids crossing Southold and the bay that separates the North and South Forks is needed,” he said in a comment online. “Helicopter traffic is constant and especially noted on Fridays en route to the South Shore and then again on Sunday leaving the South Shore headed north. In between there is constant traffic and low-flying helicopters as well as private jets.”

“The use of the questionable, insufficient format not only silenced the voices of the public but was perceived as a clear attempt by the FAA to diminish the serious impact of the NSR and the negative quality of life impacts that resulted to the North Fork.”

— Lee Zeldin

Sinclair has complained many times about the helicopters but said the FAA requires tail number identification “which is nearly impossible for most civilians to observe and record,” he said in a comment. “Moreover, aircraft comes through at low altitudes below 500 feet creating a terrible noise upsetting people, animal and wildlife in the area. This disregard for quality of life and the peaceful enjoyment of the residents of Southold is a crime. An alternate all-water route is needed for both peace and quiet as well as public safety.” 

The North Shore Helicopter Route was created in 2012 and originally had a two-year duration set to end in August 2014. It was again extended for another two years, and in the summer of 2016,  it was extended for four years. Zeldin said the FAA used questionable “emergency authority” to extend the timeline of the route. The latest extension is set to expire on August 6, 2020. 

Zeldin’s office said the congressman has requested other U.S. representatives assist in addressing the issue. He has maintained the FAA needs to consider an all-water route over the Atlantic Ocean, and has not yet received a response from the federal agency.

Jim Peters, FAA spokesperson, said in a statement that they will review Zeldin’s letter, which they received on May 14, and then respond to him directly. 

Earlier this month, the FAA extended the use of alternative noise relief routes that shifted traffic away from neighborhoods in northeast Queens. Zeldin said this is great news for suffering residents in those areas but a slap in the face to the North Fork, which has sought similar relief for years. 

“Actions by your agency to provide relief to select communities impacted by the deeply flawed North Shore Route while ignoring the pleas of others is unfair and inequitable,” the congressman said in his letter. “The residents of the North Fork do not live near any helipads or airports and receive only the negative impact of noise and none of the economic benefits associated with the air traffic that greatly increases over their homes during the summer high season. If the FAA is willing and able to provide noise relief to New York City communities suffering from the NSR through regulatory action, it must swiftly and immediately take the same action for North Fork residents.”

Similarly, on Long Island, there are plans for a new luxury helicopter shuttle to the Hamptons where residents on the East End have also been trying to reduce helicopter noise in the area. 

Wheels Up, a membership-based private aviation company, announced earlier this month that the summer shuttles will run from mid-June through August.

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Holding coat hangers and signs high above their heads, nearly 20 protesters stood at the corner of Nesconset Highway and Route 112 shouting “Keep your hands off our bodies,” and “We won’t go back.”

The locals, organized by the North Shore Peace group, came out in protest decrying several states’ moves to severely restrict abortion, including Alabama, Georgia, Ohio and Missouri. In Alabama’s case, abortion will be restricted to only in cases that the woman’s health is in danger. It also restricts abortion for people who are victims of rape, and doctors who perform abortions could face up to 99 years in prison.

The laws have largely been seen as attempts to move abortion to the plate of the U.S. Supreme Court in the hopes that landmark case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortions, would be overturned.

Protesters held coat hangers high above their heads to symbolize the instrument used when abortions were illegal to perform
“backroom” unsanitary abortions, often out of desperation.

“I’m speechless, I just don’t know what to say anymore,” said Myrna Gordon, a protest organizer.

One protester, Janet Sklar, had a charm necklace that she plucked out of her shirt and laid over her sign. One charm, a coat hanger, had been on that necklace for close to 40 years.

“We were marching in the ʼ70s for this, and look how far we haven’t come,” she said. 

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Mayor responds saying both parties should be aware of code

A Residents First Party sign in front of a Port Jeff home. Photo by Kyle Barr

This post was updated June 5 to add comments by Fred Leute Jr.

After certain Residents First Party candidates got heated over issues involving their signs several weeks ago, acting Chief of Code Enforcement Fred Leute Jr. looks to set the record straight.

He was originally told by an official in the village that signs were not allowed on public property, which is correct according to Village Attorney Brian Egan, but he was also told that anything 3 feet from the curb is prohibited as an easement.

“They did not want me to take signs off easements,” he said, admitting it was a mistake not to ask another village official first. 

The acting chief said he uses Tuesdays to do paperwork and other administration duties, and usually dresses in plain clothes to do that work. He also takes his personal vehicle to Village Hall on Tuesdays, as he said he doesn’t wish to waste taxpayer money using a public safety vehicle.

On his way to work he drives around the village interacting with homeless populations, but he also noticed several signs along his way that were on public property, and others on residential property right next to the road near St. Charles Hospital. Another sign was in front of The Steam Room seafood restaurant in the garden facing the road, which he originally thought was public property. He said once he learned it was not village property, he took that sign and replaced “in the same holes I took it.”

He added that he did not know where the signs removed in the residential section were precisely, and those signs were instead picked up by trustee candidate Tom Meehan, of the Residents First Party. Leute said the event became a big misunderstanding.

“There was no malice against LaValle,” he added.

Garant and Leute have confirmed signs are not being taken down from private property by village officials.

Original Story:

It’s a sign the Port Jeff mayoral and trustee race is heating up as signs, specifically political signs, lead to friction between candidates.

John Jay LaValle, who is running for mayor alongside trustee candidates Thomas Meehan and Tracy Stapleton, said he and Meehan received calls the morning of May 14 saying a black Ford SUV was traveling around the village taking political signs from people’s lawns.

Later, while at Village Hall, LaValle said he saw the SUV, a black Ford Escape, in the parking lot and learned it belonged to acting Chief of Code Enforcement Fred Leute.

“We’re pretty upset, we’re trying to play fair, and it really kind of bothered me.”

— Tom Meehan

“We find out he was driving his personal car, in civilian clothes, not his uniform, driving around on government time taking down his boss’s opponents signs,” LaValle said.

Brian Egan, the village attorney, said village code disallows residents to place signs on the right-of-ways of a public street or walkway. It also allows residents to put up political signs on their public property for 30 out of a 60-day period and can be placed anywhere on said private property.

Village Clerk Bob Juliano confirmed that signs may be placed anywhere on private property and that some of the signs should not have been taken.

In an interview, Leute said that two of the signs were on public property, but another few were on private land. He admitted to making the mistake in taking those signs, and code enforcement would no longer be enforcing political signage, instead referring them to the public works department.

Village Mayor Margot Garant said her campaign and LaValle’s received an email from Juliano May 6 about the need to keep signs from public property. She added code enforcement removed signs from both candidates and put notes on each one explaining why they were taken. 

“Both of our signs were taken,” the mayor said. “I had a conversation with John [LaValle], and I said you got guys volunteering, I got guys volunteering. We both got guys who are overzealous — it’s going to happen … it’s about keeping the village from looking like a war zone right now.”

Meehan confirmed hearing about a number of signs taken down near where he lives, and had received calls that the car was a black Ford Escape. People calling him had reported a man picking up their signs and putting them into the back of the car.

“We’re pretty upset, we’re trying to play fair, and it really kind of bothered me,” Meehan said. “For him to take the signs … it takes a lot of brass. Him, in his private car, and I don’t know if he was working at the time and who directed him to do this.”

Though people involved did not agree on the number of signs, among them were a few Unity Party signs — the party featuring Garant, trustee Stan Loucks and trustee candidate Kathianne Snaden  — and one or two additional school board candidate signs.

“Fred is the chief — he’s the chief all the time, 24/7.”

— Margot Garant

The signs were brought to Juliano, who later returned them to the residents. 

Meehan said he was told the removed signs “were on right-of-ways, and two were too close to the road.”

“The courts have said political signage has wider protection than commercial signage,” Egan said.

LaValle took particular exception with Leute using his personal vehicle to remove the signs, instead of a code enforcement vehicle. Garant, meanwhile, said there was nothing necessarily wrong with how the acting chief did it. The acting chief said he uses his personal car on Tuesdays as he spends most of that particular day doing paperwork.

“Fred is the chief — he’s the chief all the time, 24/7,” the mayor said.

The mayoral candidate said he has reason to believe Leute acted under the current mayor’s orders to target his signs directly.

Meehan, Edna Louise Spear Elementary School principal, said he and his party had been efficient in removing signs from where they were not supposed to be, such as in right-of-ways. He added he has heard recent reports of people, not necessarily code enforcement, removing their signs from people’s lawns.

“I wasn’t looking for this kind of a fight, and I’m not saying I’m going to fight dirty,” Meehan said. “Just makes me even more sure I want to win this thing.”

Updated May 23 to correct name of trustee candidate to Kathianne Snaden.

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