Politics

Brookhaven Councilman Daniel Panico and Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Alex Petroski

Elected officials in Brookhaven Town are taking steps that could both lengthen and shorten their time in office.

The board voted to hold a public hearing Aug. 2 on the idea of instituting a three-term limit on elected positions while also extending the length of a term from two to four years at a June 26 meeting. This would limit officials to 12 years in office.

Brookhaven is currently the only town on Long Island with two-year terms for elected officials, according to Supervisor Ed Romaine (R).

“I’m supporting it because when you have the entire government turn over every two years it can provide for a lack of stability,” Romaine said on changing from two-year to four-year terms. “You don’t have the constant churning in politics that can sometimes undermine the system. It allows for long-range planning and programs. It takes the politics out of local government.”

Councilmembers Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) each expressed similar sentiments when asked if they intend to support the idea. They said having to prepare to run for office every two years hinders their ability to complete and implement projects, especially pertaining to land use, which they said can take time.

“I believe there’s merit in establishing term limits and four-year terms,” Cartright said, but said she intends to keep an open mind and let residents weigh in. “It lends itself to better government.”

Specifically on limiting officials to three terms, LaValle said it should encourage fresh ideas and new faces stepping up to run, which he viewed as a positive, calling it a good combination both for government and residents.

If these changes are approved by the board, the proposal would go to a referendum vote in November giving taxpayers the opportunity to ultimately decide the idea’s fate. It could impact the town supervisor position, each of the six council seats, superintendent of highways, town clerk and receiver of taxes starting as of 2020.

“I think it will be a very interesting referendum on the ballot to see what people want,” LaValle said.

Bonner said she has changed her mind on term limits, saying she was among those who view Election Day as the inherent way to limit the term of a politician failing to serve their constituents.

“What it will essentially do is create not just good government, but better government,” Bonner said.

In January, the Town of Huntington passed similar legislation limiting all elected positions, to three terms of four years each.

“The town is going to be much better off,” Councilman Gene Cook said upon passing the legislation. He proposed the idea to Huntington’s board in June 2017. “Elected officials have an upper hand and can be there forever. Now, we’ve sort of evened the field today. It took a long time, far too long, but I’m glad it’s done.”

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Nesconset man was arrested for allegedly making a terroristic threat against a campaign worker at  U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-Shirley) headquarters last July 6, according to Suffolk County police.

Nesconset resident Martin Astrof, 75, was arrested for allegedly threatening one of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s campaign workers. Photo from SCPD

Martin Astrof was arrested Friday after he allegedly threatened to kill one of Zeldin’s supporters and supporters of President Donald Trump (R).  Astrof went to Zeldin’s campaign headquarters on Terry Road in Smithtown and became irate with a campaign worker, identified by Zeldin’s office as Donato Panico,  at approximately 11:15 a.m., police said. After allegedly threatening to kill Panico and other supporters, Astrof backed his car up in an aggressive manner nearly striking the worker, according to police.

“Donato Panic is an exceptional citizen who has dedicated his life to serving our law enforcement and nation’s veterans,” Zeldin said in a statement. “He should never have been targeted like this today for his support of a political candidate.”

Astrof, 75,  allegedly fled the scene and was arrested a short time later in front of his home in Nesconset. He was charged with one felony-count of making a terrorist threat and one count of second-degree reckless endangerment.

“In the United States of America, political scores are settled at the ballot box, not by trying to kill your political opponents,” Zeldin said. “It is unacceptable to resort to actions to kill or seriously harm political opponents or otherwise incite those violent actions by others. It must stop now.”

The congressman said he himself has received several death threats, and his wife and children have been targeted as well since the last presidential election in 2016.

Astrof was arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip July 7 and released after posting bail in the amount of $25,000 bond. A temporary order of protection was issued by Suffolk County police.

 

U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin's campaign kickoff event was held June 28 in Smithtown

More than 350 supporters attended U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin’s (R-Shirley) campaign kickoff event at the Smithtown Elks Club last week, but full media coverage of the guest speakers may be hard to come by.

Two members of the local press were kicked out of Zeldin’s June 28 event after an attendee in their vicinity vocally decried one of his controversial featured speakers, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

“I asked, ‘Why do I have to leave?’ There was no reason given,”said Pat Biancaniello, editor of the site Smithtown Matters and one of the journalists removed from the event.

Chris Boyle, communications director for Zeldin’s 2018 campaign for Congress, said that a protester made an outburst that created a disturbance in the middle of the rally, causing the congressman’s security team to react.

“[I]n an effort to escort all those involved out of a crowded and loud rally, three people, including the protester, were identified as being involved in the outburst and were escorted out,” Boyle said in a statement.

I asked, ‘Why do I have to leave?’ There was no reason given.”

– Pat Biancaniello

Setauket resident Susan Perretti, the woman identified as having created the disturbance at the event, said she had RSVP’d she would be attending with two friends in hopes of getting an opportunity to directly address her congressman unfiltered, saying town hall-style events tend to only allow for prescreened questions. When two friends were denied entry, she proceeded to head inside.

Perretti, a member of the North Country Peace Group advocacy organization, said once inside she had a hard time keeping quiet while hearing comments made by several former advisers to President Donald Trump (R) and what she called “hate” speech from attendees.

“Then when Sean Spicer came out, I just started saying, ‘It’s enough — it’s enough,’” she said.

When Zeldin’s security team approached her, Perretti said she was asked to leave or she would be arrested. Upon asking why, Perretti said she was informed that she was trespassing before being escorted off the premises peacefully.

Biancaniello said she and Dave Ambro, editor of The Smithtown News, were standing in close proximity to Perretti when the commotion began. The editor of The Smithtown News took a photo of Perretti’s outburst, according to those in attendance, before he was the first journalist to be escorted out.

Then when Sean Spicer came out, I just started saying, ‘It’s enough — it’s enough.'”

— Susan Perretti

Ambro declined to comment on the event.

State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said he was close enough to see Zeldin’s security team approach both Perretti and the reporters, but he could not hear the conversation over the rally and it was unclear what was unfolding.

“There was a list of people who were known troublemakers [the security team] was on the lookout for who were known to be trying to get in,” Fitzpatrick said, “Two were discovered trying to find their way inside to disrupt the event.”

However, the assemblyman said the reporters kicked out were not associated with the protester.

“I did not witness any problem whatsoever by David or Pat,” he said. “From what I could see, there was no reason for them to be asked to be removed. They were not part of the disruption. When the commotion started, they were obviously paying attention to it as reporters would.”

Biancaniello said she was the second journalist to be forced out by Zeldin’s security team. She alleged she identified herself as a member of the press, was openly wearing a media badge provided by Zeldin’s team and that her camera was hit by a guard when she attempted to take a photo.

When asked to leave, the two other people, later identified as the editor of the longtime anti-Zeldin Smithtown News and a left leaning local blogger, did not display those credentials they were provided …”

– Chris Boyle

“I think it was people were intentionally singled out,” the Smithtown Matters editor said.

Zeldin’s staff said the press failed to appropriately identify themselves to the security team.

“When asked to leave, the two other people, later identified as the editor of the longtime anti-Zeldin Smithtown News and a left leaning local blogger, did not display those credentials they were provided almost as if they wanted to get thrown out to write about it afterwards,” Zeldin’s communications director said. “Following the outburst, they did not contact any members of our team until hours after the event ended.”

Biancaniello said she had called and emailed Zeldin’s office immediately following the event without response. After making her story public in a Facebook post at approximately 8:30 p.m., Biancaniello said she was informed several local residents contacted Zeldin’s office and she eventually received an emailed reply asking why she never properly identified herself as being with the press despite alleging she was wearing her press badge.

The Smithtown Matters editor said she has grave concerns about the precedent the event may set for media coverage of the upcoming race for the 1st Congressional District.

“What does it say when only the people given admission again were the people who you think will cover it positively?” she said. “That’s not where the world needs to be today. We have enough people coming after journalists and the integrity of the media in general.”

Hundreds of Huntington area residents took a clear stand against President Donald Trump’s (R) immigration policies at the corner of Jericho Turnpike and Route 110 June 30.

Standing two to three people deep on all four sides of the intersection, protesters held signs with messages of “Families belong together,” “No human is illegal” and homemade signs calling for “Reunite families.”  The chant of “Love not hate makes America great” was taken up as a refrain. Each honk from a passing car or truck providing the crowd of more than 600 — an unofficial estimate — with a new wave of energy to combat the sweltering heat.

At a podium set up at the northwest corner of the intersection, speakers from a coalition of more than 50 organizations — including Long Island Inclusive Communities Against Hate, New York Chapter 2 of The American Academy of Pediatrics, Latinos Unidos de Long Island, Sepa Mujer and many others — took turns speaking to those gathered on a bullhorn.

We hope our rally displays the love and compassion we hope that America can represent as well as the hopeful and powerful nature of our democracy.”
– Pilar Moya

“We hope our rally displays the love and compassion we hope that America can represent as well as the hopeful and powerful nature of our democracy,” said Pilar Moya, founder of Latinos Unidos de Long Island, a nonprofit organization that helps provide support and a community for Latino families. “Our message to the families separated at the border is, ‘You matter, and our voices are our extensions of yours.’”

More than 2,300 immigrant parents and their children were separated after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions enacted a zero-tolerance policy for those who crossed the border illegally in mid-April. After public outcry, Trump signed an executive order June 20 designed to end the family separations. The policy has been both denounced by members of the Trump administration as a holdover Obama-era procedure and publicly cited as a new strategy intentionally instituted to deter asylum seekers from trying to come to America.

“Our mission is to protect the health and well-being of all children, regardless of their immigration status,” said Dr. Steve Goldstein, pediatrician and president of New York Chapter 2 of The American Academy of
Pediatrics. “We want to see immediate reunification of those children already taken from their parents. We oppose housing families and children in detention centers and prefer community settings for them and we want to see timely determinations of applications for asylum.”

Despite Trump’s executive order, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told the U.S. Senate Finance Committee last week that there were still 2,047 children in federal custody as of the last week of June.

“As a therapist working with adults who have PTSD resulting from childhood  traumas, what is being done to children separated from their parents is creating trauma that is everlasting,” said Sharon Golden, founder of Together We Will — Long Island, which identifies as an advocacy group for human rights. “I cannot accept what is going on and how the immigrant community is being treated, and I will stand by them and continue to fight for them until they are given the rights they deserve.”

Perry Gershon thanks volunteers and supporters at his Setauket office June 26 after securing the Democratic Party nomination for Congress in New York’s 1st District. Photo by Alex Petroski

The stage is finally set for what will likely be a fierce campaign leading up to the November midterm elections.

Perry Gershon, a largely self-funded first-time candidate for political office, who spent years as a commercial mortgage lender and a small business owner, defeated four other Democrats aiming to take down incumbent 1st District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) June 26.

Kate Browning speaks to supporters as she waits for election results to come in June 26 in Patchogue. Photo by Rita J. Egan

More than 20,300 1st District voters turned out to vote in the primary, which was open to only those registered as members of the party, as per New York State law. Gershon secured 7,226 votes, beating former Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning, his closest competitor, by about 1,000 votes. Vivian Viloria-Fisher, another former legislator, finished third with 3,314 votes. In 2016, about 12,600 registered Democrats went to the polls on primary day to choose between Anna Throne-Holst and Dave Calone.

“The voters showed that we’re tired of what’s going on in Washington,” Gershon said to a room full of supporters and volunteers at his campaign headquarters in Setauket when it became clear his lead would hold up. He thanked his family and those who worked to help him win the nomination, as well as the other four candidates, who he said ran a clean race with an eye on unifying post-primary all along. “Our elected leaders are not responsive to what people are looking for. People want a new breed, and that’s what I stand for.”

Zeldin, who has been quiet about his potential challengers, wasted no time getting the campaign started on Twitter once Gershon became the presumed victor.

“Park Ave Perry may have bought himself the Democratic Party nomination in NY-1, but our Congressional seat is not for sale,” the incumbent wrote. “NY-1 isn’t electing a far left, Pelosi-loving, NYC Democrat who registered in our district very recently just to run for Congress.”

In an interview after his win, Gershon said he intends to make his campaign about health care, the environment and creating high-wage jobs in the 1st District.

Perry Gershon supporters anxiously await election results at his campaign headquarters in Setauket June 26. Photo by Alex Petroski

“I’m really excited, I feel like people believed in me and I’m so happy for it,” he said.

Many of those believers were people who readily admitted they’d never gotten much involved in politics in the past.

“I’ve seen a lot of people, like at my school, very few people who cared about politics beforehand but after the March for Our Lives, after the result of the Never Again movement, and even after what’s happening at the border right now, far more young people are getting involved,” said Scott Egnor, a Ward Melville High School student who helped organize the youth-led local gun control protests in March. He cited Gershon’s desire to ban assault-style weapons and strengthen background checks as the driving force behind his motivation to volunteer for his campaign. “Even at the office, he still wears his March for Our Lives hat, and I think that spoke to me a lot.”

Browning said in an interview from her watch party in Patchogue she’s not sure what her next move might be in politics, but vowed to support Gershon’s efforts to flip the seat in November.

“It’s about taking out Lee Zeldin, and we all need to regroup and support [Gershon],” she said.

All five candidates told TBR News Media in May they intended to support the primary winner.

Reporting contributed by Rita J. Egan.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks during a press conference June 20 calling out Republicans for voting down three bond resolutions. Photo by Kyle Barr

Democrats and Republicans in the Suffolk County Legislature are at each other’s throats over funding for a series of bonds, including for public safety initiatives, that failed to pass at the June 19 legislature meeting.

“The Republican caucus put politics ahead of public safety,” county Executive Steve Bellone (D) said at a press conference June 20. “We saw a group of seven Republican legislators put their own politics over the interests of their constituents, of public safety, of teachers and students.”

At the June 19 meeting, three out of four bond resolutions failed to garner support from at least 12 legislators, which would represent the two-thirds support necessary to pass a bond resolution. The seven members of the Republican minority caucus voted against the resolutions. The three failed bonds included 14 items that would have provided funding for county parks, correctional facilities, public safety initiatives, road reconstruction and more.

Republican legislators said they voted against the bonds because they did not want to feel forced to vote on items they might disagree with in the future, lumped with items they were comfortable supporting now.

“We shouldn’t be paying these things off for 30 years because it’s just not fair to young people.”

— Rob Trotta

“The blame for the failure of this bond rests squarely on the shoulders of Steve Bellone,” said Minority Leader Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore). “Last month the county executive abandoned 40 years of history and precedence in Suffolk County… in an effort to bully the legislature into every one of his proposals.”

Bonds traditionally had not been grouped together by the Suffolk Legislature.

Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said he opposed the resolutions in part because bonding for each of the 14 projects would increase the country’s deficit.

“What we’re doing is increasing debt,” Trotta said. “We shouldn’t be paying these things off for 30 years because it’s just not fair to young people.”

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) sponsored a bill that would allocate funds for a Rails to Trails project from Wading River to Port Jefferson. That bill was included in a larger bond proposal at the June 6 legislative meeting, and that too was voted down by the Republican caucus.

“I hope they can get this resolved soon because it’s basically hindering government,” Anker said. “The county has to bond for these sorts of projects – that’s why we have this sort of process.”

Anker said the $8 million Rails to Trails project was to be funded by that bond and then the county would be reimbursed by the federal government, but without the bond the county is now looking for different revenue sources so it would not have to push back plans to start building the trail by spring 2019.

The most contentious item amongst the recent three defeated bonds was $2 million in funding for licensing Rave Panic Button mobile app, a downloadable application that acts as an instant call to fire and emergency services as well as police in an emergency, specifically a school shooting, for school and government employees.

The Rave app is currently active in 95 percent of county facilities with 20 percent of county employee phones now equipped with the app, according to Joel Vetter, the county Emergency Medical Services coordinator. The program is already in place in 19 school districts with 10 enabled devices per building. The funding, Vetter said, would have put the app in the hands of all current school administrative and teaching staff in all county school districts.

“This means that if the cellular system is down, you could contact emergency services through WiFi,” Vetter said.

Bellone defended the lump bonding, saying it’s a practice used in town and local governments across the state. He said the public safety initiatives would have saved district schools more than $1 million since each would not have to pay for it themselves.

“This has become the worst of our politics.”

— Duwayne Gregory

“If we back down from this outrageous conduct now, they will continue to hold hostage every important investment on the environment, on public safety, on roads, on parks — and we’re not going to allow that to happen,” the county executive said.

Cilmi contended that bundling the bonds together does not save money because the county’s bond council, New York law firm Harris Beach PLLC, does not charge for bond preparation.

The contract between Suffolk and Harris Beach, signed by the county in 2014, reads that there shall be no fee paid by the county related to the preparation of county resolutions, which includes bonds.

Cilmi and Trotta both said they could come close to guaranteeing funding for the Rave app would be approved as a stand-alone measure.

Democrats accused the Republican caucus of being hypocritical as the bond vote was all for items those legislators have already supported in the recent past.

“This has become the worst of our politics.” Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said. “Nobody gets 100 percent of what they want, and when they say, ‘we’re going to vote against a package to other bills regarding funding for our correctional facilities,’ saying ‘I don’t like one or two parts of the bill and I’m going to vote against,’ is just ridiculous.”

Bellone said he expects to put the bonds back up for vote in the next legislative meeting July 17, but he did not give specifics about whether or not the county would try and repackage the bills to be more favorable to the wishes of the Republican caucus.

Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman (D) said if the bond vote fails again the app will not be available to districts until after school reconvenes in September.

“We have to regroup and think what kind of strategies we have going forward,” Kaiman said. “When you fail a vote the process takes a lot of time to come back.”

Incumbents Bruce Miller and Bruce D’Abramo won new terms on the board of trustees. Photos by Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Village residents cast their ballots in favor of the status quo June 19.

Incumbent trustees Bruce D’Abramo and Bruce Miller won their seats back in an extremely tight race Tuesday, leaving challenger Kathianne Snaden the odd-candidate-out in a three-way battle for two positions.

Miller lead the way garnering 382 votes. The margin between D’Abramo and Snaden was just four votes — 345 for the incumbent to 341 for the challenger. Village Clerk Robert Juliano said the count included all absentee ballots, and as of Wednesday morning he had received no notice of a request for a recount. Snaden said in a phone interview she intended to request a hand count of the ballots in the coming days based on the slim margin.

“I’m ready to get back in the harness and keep pulling on the rope,” Miller said in a phone interview, thanking the community for supporting him. He also congratulated his colleague D’Abramo and thanked Snaden for running what he called an energetic and clean race.

He secured his third term on the board, after previously spending 12 years on Port Jefferson School District’s board of education. Miller ran on his willingness to advocate for residents of the village, especially regarding the potential property tax implications of an impending settlement with Long Island Power Authority to handle a years-long legal battle about the plant’s property tax assessment, which the utility has contended is too high based on current energy output and demand at the power station. He has also been a staunch opponent of financial assistance packages being awarded by the Suffolk County and Brookhaven Industrial Development Agencies, which have led to the construction of multiple large-scale apartment complexes in the village during the last several years.

D’Abramo earned his fifth two-year term as a trustee with his narrow victory.

“Couldn’t be happier,” he said in an email. “I love this village and love being a trustee. I’m looking forward to the next two years.”

During the campaign, he touted his experience as a buildings and grounds superintendent for two East End districts, in addition to his years as the board’s liaison to the village Building and Planning Department, all part of his 35 years of municipal experience, he said.

“I think I bring an important talent to the Village of Port Jefferson,” he said of his experience in overseeing large construction contracts and projects, making sure they were completed on time and on budget, D’Abramo said during a meet the candidates event.

Snaden said in a phone interview she still intends to be engaged in trying to improve the community despite the defeat.

“It was a close race,” she said. “The fact I was [four] votes away only shows there is a need for what I can bring to the village. I definitely plan to stay active and involved in the community. I’m not going anywhere.”

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Dozens of Huntington residents gathered in the shadow of Constitution Oak last Friday, to declare the intent to fight for the human rights of immigrant children across Long Island and the nation.

More than 100 residents gathered June 15 to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies at the Huntington Village Green Park, near the intersection of Park Avenue and Main Street. Many carried signs reading “Families Belong Together” alongside the Spanish translation, “Familias Unidas, No Divididas,” while others imitated children crying out for their parents calling out to passing pedestrians and drivers.

“We are all disturbed and outraged with this administration’s new policy of separating children from their parents,  parents whose only crime is to bring their family to safety,” said Dr. Eve Krief, a Huntington pediatrician who founded the nonprofit group Long Island Inclusive Communities Against Hate. “We demand an immediate end to this horrendous, cruel and unjustified policy.”

“We demand an immediate end to this horrendous, cruel and unjustified policy.”
– Eve Krief

In mid-April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy for immigrants who cross the border illegally, which means they can be arrested and prosecuted. There have been 1,995 children taken from 1,940 adults at the border from April 19 to May 31, according to reporting by the Associated Press.

Victoria Hernandez, an outreach coordinator for SEPA Mujer Long Island, a nonprofit organization that represents immigrant women, called for her neighbors and community members to take action against Trump’s policies. She suggested calling and writing to elected officials, as well as signing SEPA Mujer’s online petition at www.sepamujer.org.

“We have to take action to prevent Jeff Sessions from allowing this violence against women and children from occurring,” Hernandez said. “For the children, please, for the children take action.”

An immigrant couple with their young son from the Huntington area stood in the crowd, arms wrapped around each other as Hernandez spoke. The family was in court days earlier pleading their case for asylum, according to Huntington Rapid Response Network volunteer Renee Bradley, and will know within the next four months if they’ve been accepted or face deportation.

“They fear they could be injured or face certain death if forced to return to their home country,” she said, declining to release more specific details.

“I wasn’t asking for the opportunity or wonders of America, I was just asking for the Lord to give me one more chance to hug my mother again.”
– Dr. Harold Fernandez

Bradley works with other members of the Huntington Rapid Response Network to provide immigrant families with legal services and support as they face legal process and get settled. It is one of eight such groups across Long Island associated with Jobs with Justice, a Washington D.C. nonprofit that fights for equal worker’s rights, that provides immigrants with referrals to trusted immigration lawyers and free services, translation services, accompaniment to court dates and other social support. Bradley said she currently is aiding several asylum seekers with their cases.

“A lot of people are being caught up in a very wide net that’s all about MS-13, and MS-13 is being used to demonize the entire immigrant population,” she said.

Dr. Steve Goldstein, president of Chapter 2 of New York State’s American Academy of Pediatrics, said that the separation of children from their parents and detention can have life-long health impacts from the toxic stress it causes. Goldstein said it can lead to chronic anxiety, predisposition to high blood pressure, and cause detrimental changes in brain function and structure citing research done by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

One doctor shared his personal story of making his way to the United States as an illegal immigrant from Columbia with the protestors. Dr. Harold Fernandez said at age 12 he traveled to the Bahamas, where he and 10 others boarded a small boat at midnight to make his way into the U.S. and reunite with parents, who were already working here.

“Rob children from their parents, put them in cages and treat them like animals — they will be wounded and broken forever.”
– Rev. Marie Tatro

“The trip was only seven hours, but I can tell you it [was] the longest seven hours of my life,” he said. “I wasn’t asking for the opportunity or wonders of America, I was just asking for the Lord to give me one more chance to hug my mother again.”

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said he was appalled by what is happening across the nation and wants to propose an Immigrant Protection Act in Suffolk County. He referred to legislation approved by Westchester County lawmakers in March that limited the information the county shares with federal immigration authorities and bars employees from asking about a person’s citizenship in most circumstances. Spencer said he believed other Suffolk lawmakers would support such a bill.

“You want the perfect recruiting tool for groups like MS-13, here it is,” said Rev. Marie Tatro, with the Community Justice Ministry at the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. “Rob children from their parents, put them in cages and treat them like animals — they will be wounded and broken forever.”

Tatro said several Long Island churches and religious organizations are springing into action to help immigrants affected by offering them sanctuary, providing them with safe haven from Immigration and Custom Enforcement officers.

“There are angels of mercy working tirelessly all across Long Island to provide help,” she said. “We are all in this together, we will, and we must learn from history.”

Perry Gershon. Photo by Kyle Barr

As the five-headed Democratic Primary to select a challenger for 1st District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) nears, six Stony Brook University faculty members, some with ties to Brookhaven National Lab, have authored a letter endorsing their preferred winner.

The signers of the letter are throwing their public support behind Perry Gershon, a first-time candidate for political office from the private sector, who made a career as a commercial mortgage lender and small business owner, citing his belief that “facts trump opinions.” The group also supports Gershon’s broader dedication to protecting the environment.

The endorsement came with a disclaimer that the signees being affiliated with SBU are for identification purposes only and do not imply institutional support for any political candidate. Other notable endorsements in the race thus far include Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski’s (D-Cutchogue) stated support for Kate Browning, a former legislator herself; and Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) backing Vivian Viloria-Fisher, another Suffolk legislature alumna. Notably, the group of six from SBU’s STEM department did not endorse BNL scientist Elaine DiMasi, who is also among the five candidates in the race.

The full letter from the SBU professors supporting Gershon is below, lightly edited for grammar and style.

Endorsement of Perry Gershon for Congress by faculty and researchers in science, technology, engineering and math at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory

An open letter to the community:

As faculty and researchers at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory  involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teaching and research, we believe it is of vital importance that you vote for Perry Gershon as your next U.S. Representative in Congress in New York’s 1st Congressional District June 26 in the Democratic Primary.

For all of us, at both the university and the lab in Brookhaven, mid-western Suffolk has been our home for many years, just as the South Fork in eastern Suffolk has been Perry’s home for over 20 years. CD1 covers both — we share the same aquifer and the same need for clean water. What happens here locally, in our country, and in the world, matters deeply to all of us.

We need Perry in Congress because he believes that facts trump opinions. Perry grew up in an academic family. His parents are both medical researchers at Columbia University. While a student at Yale, Perry was involved in original research as co-investigator on multiple published papers with faculty. He understands at his core that investigation and evidence must win out over demagoguery.

Perry believes in the overwhelming evidence of climate change and its profound effects at every scale, from Long Island to the entire Earth. Unlike President Donald Trump (R) and Zeldin, Perry would stay in the Paris Climate Accord and work to help America meet its goals. Perry holds that expanding markets for innovative clean technologies generates jobs and economic growth. Research at SBU, BNL, and Suffolk incubators can be at the forefront of turning CD1’s economy into one that supports good-paying, middle-class jobs that offer our young people the opportunity to stay on Long Island.

Perry knows that Environmental Protection Agency regulations, based on scientific study, are made to help and protect every one of us. Yet under Trump (R), EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (R) and Zeldin, expert scientists are no longer even allowed to provide advice to the EPA, because recipients of EPA grants, who are the most knowledgeable experts, are forbidden from serving on EPA’s scientific advisory committees — the bodies that make sure regulations to protect public health and environmental values are based on sound science.

Perry knows that Department of the Interior decisions should benefit the country, not benefit any corporation that wants to exploit our natural resources for its bottom line. We do not need or want offshore oil drilling destroying our pristine coastline and threatening our tourist industry. While Zeldin feigns opposition, his support of Trump has allowed Zinke to move forward to expedite drilling permits.

Perry stands for the Democratic values that we all share: seeking truth and diversity of opinion. Unlike Trump and Zeldin, Perry actually listens. He actively seeks input and advice. His main goal is to solve problems in ways that benefit the greatest number of people.

On June 26, the Democratic Primary will choose the candidate who will oppose Zeldin in November. We firmly believe Perry Gershon has the intellect, the skills, the fortitude, and the resources to beat Zeldin — a powerful combination that is not matched by any of the other primary candidates.

We ask you to support Perry Gershon, to take back Congress by removing the man who has become Trump’s mouthpiece and enabler — Lee Zeldin. On June 26, please stand with us in returning truth to our government’s decision making.

Sincerely,

Dr. Douglas Futuyma, Distinguished Professor, Ecology and Evolution, SBU

Dr. Nancy Goroff, Chair Department of Chemistry, SBU

Dr. Stephen Baines, Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolution, SBU

Dr. Barry McCoy, Distinguished Professor, CN Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics, SBU

Dr. Lorna Role, Distinguished Professor and Chair, Neurobiology and Behavior, SBU

Dr. Gene Sprouse, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Physics and Astronomy, SBU

This post was updated June 19 to remove Dr. Jeff Keister as a signer and add Dr. Stephen Baines.

Poquott residents are protesting the village board trustees approving a 5-year bond for a community dock. File photo

As residents prepare to vote in the Village of Poquott June 19, candidates still see a proposed dock and communication among the village’s biggest issues.

Dee Parrish

Incumbent Dee Parrish is running for a third term as mayor on the Future ticket along with current trustees William Poupis and Chris Schleider. Both were appointed by the mayor in 2017 after former trustees, Michael Schaefer and John Mastauskas, resigned.

Sitting board member John Richardson is challenging Parrish for mayor and is running on the We the People ticket along with trustee candidates, Felicia Chillak and Dianna Padilla.

Parrish, an accountant, said she has not raised village taxes for the last three years. When she entered office in 2014, she said there was $86,000 in the village’s account and now there is nearly $154,000, a savings the board accomplished while improving village parks, roads and drainage.

“I actually ran the village for the last three years like a business, because [my husband and I] have our own business, because that’s what really needed to be done to keep us on track on the budget, to keep spending to finally doing things cheaper,” she said, adding her family owns an environmental consulting company.

Richardson, a New York City firefighter, said his reason for running for mayor this year is the same reason he ran for trustee in 2017 — he feels residents cannot speak freely at public hearings.

John Richardson

“I feel that people should have more say in what’s going on,” he said. “I know we elect our officials to make decisions for us. But if people are griping about it … and they’re not being heard, maybe there’s more to it.”

Chillak, a realtor, and Padilla, a Stony Brook University ecology professor, want residents to feel comfortable speaking up, something they feel some villagers are hesitant to do. One issue they say needs more community input is the proposed community dock.

Parrish, who is in favor of the dock, said due to bids coming in at more than the $150,000 originally expected, the board is holding off on a vote. She said the idea of a dock developed from a simple pier, where people could fish and dock boats, to a bigger project due to the village having to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and required lighting.

“We have to look at everything before we decide how this is going to impact residents in the future,” Parrish said, adding she will be affected by the decision too.

Richardson, Chillak and Padilla said the dock should be put to a referendum, so residents can vote on it instead of the board making the decision.

Felicia Chillak

“I believe everybody should have a voice, whether you agree with me or don’t agree with me let’s talk about it,” Chillak said.

Both Schleider, a teacher, and Poupis, vice president of operations for a nationwide drilling company, said they feel the board is open to residents’ comments on the docks and other issues. Poupis said he hopes to put a procedure in place to make it even easier for them.

“I just wish for every complaint [that] you had three potential ways to repair it,” the current trustee said he asks critics.

While Padilla said she believes residents should have more input when it comes to a dock, she is against it. The challenger said it can be environmentally damaging, including disrupting living creatures at the bottom of the water during installation and its shade negatively impacting fish and shellfish.

“There is no need for this dock,” she said. “There are nearby docks that people can use. This is not going to be a place where people can tie up their boats. It will be for loading and unloading only.”

All three challengers also have concerns as to whether or not the dock is financially responsible, especially with the board considering taking $34,000 from the village’s fund balance for the first installment of a five-year note.

“I’m not saying the dock is not an option,” Chillak said. “I’m saying let the people decide, and we will openly discuss.”

Chris Schleider

Schleider, who said he became trustee to show his kids the importance of civic responsibility, is in favor of the community dock.

“I think that the village hasn’t spent money on something like this in a long time,” he said “It’s nice to have a centerpiece for the village to utilize.”

Poupis said the dock would draw more people to the village and possibly increase real estate values.

“It’s being able to look at the village and trying to project out where it’s going to be in five or 10 years,” he said. “That’s where you really separate someone who is just sitting in the mayor’s chair versus someone who is actively looking at the growth of the village.”

The We the People ticket said many who have spoken out against the board have received code violations. While they don’t deny that violations exist in village homes, some infractions are similar to neighbors who haven’t been reported.

Parrish said the building department, code enforcement, public works and the board meet every week. The mayor said any complaints the village clerk receives from residents are given to code enforcement, which inspects the problem and decides what to do. Parrish said everyone is given an appropriate amount of time to address the issue.

Dianna Padilla

Richardson said he was targeted after running for trustee last year. When he applied to renew a permit to work on his balcony, he said he received it and then the permit was rescinded by the village attorney. He said he needed an extension because once he started working on the balcony it needed more work than anticipated. He alleged code enforcement is unfairly cracking down on people. While he believes there are issues that need to be addressed, he feels there is overregulation, and the village should reach out to residents before penalizing them to fully understand what is going on.

“There’s always a different side to every story,” he said about reaching out to potential code violators. “I think in a village with only 357 households we have the capacity to do that as a village and a community.”

Parrish said when Richardson asked for an extension to continue working on his balcony, the village court discovered he never closed out a 2003 permit for a second floor on his home and therefore he doesn’t have a current certificate of occupancy. Richardson said the building inspector approved and signed off on his CO April 20, and he is waiting for the village to approve it.

William Poupis

All the candidates are in agreement that improvements need to be made to Walnut Beach. Parrish said they are cleaning the beach up and are thinking of bringing in sand to replenish it. Padilla said replenishing the beach with sand may not be the answer as it’s environmentally unsound because dredge spoils can smother anything aliveunderneath it.

Incumbent Schleider said the beach brings back many happy memories for his in-laws, and he hopes the spot will be preserved for his children to visit one day.

“It’s one of the things I am most passionate about is maintaining that shoreline we have,” he said.

The Village of Poquott will hold its annual election Tuesday, June 19, at Village Hall, located at 45 Birchwood Ave. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m.

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