Times of Huntington-Northport

Tobias Janowitz with research technician Ya Gao at Cold Spring Harbor Lab Photo by ©Gina Motisi, 2019/CSHL

By Daniel Dunaief

It’s a low-tech setting with high stakes. Scientists present their findings, often without slides and pictures, to future colleagues and collaborators in a chalk talk, hoping faculty at other institutions see the potential benefit of offering them an employment opportunity.

For Tobias Janowitz, this discussion convinced him that Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was worth uprooting his wife and three young children from across the Atlantic Ocean to join.

Chalk talks in most places encourage people to “defend their thinking. Here, it was completely different. They moved on from my chalk talk quickly,” said Janowitz in a recent interview.

Research technician Ya Gao and Tobias Janowitz at Cold Spring Harbor Lab. Photo by ©Gina Motisi, 2019/CSHL

Janowitz recalled how CSHL CEO Bruce Stillman asked him “what else will you do that’s important and high risk. He moved me on from that discussion within five minutes and essentially skipped a step I’d usually spend at another institution. It’s a very special place.”

Janowitz, who earned a medical degree and a doctorate from the University of Cambridge, came to the lab to work in a field where he’s distinguished himself with cancer research that points to the role of a glycoprotein called interleukin 6, or IL-6, in a specific step in the progression of the disease, and as a medical oncologist. He will work as a clinician scientist, dedicated to research and discovery and advancing clinical care, rather than delivering standard care.

As CSHL continues to develop its ongoing relationship with Northwell Health, Janowitz said he expects to be “one of the intellectual bridges between the two institutions.”

In his research, the scientist specializes in understanding the reciprocal interaction between a tumor and the body. Rather than focusing on one type of cancer, he explores the insidious steps that affect an organ or system and then wants to understand the progression of signals and interactions that lead to conditions like cachexia, in which a person with cancer loses weight and his or her appetite declines, depriving the body of necessary nutrition.

CSHL Cancer Center Director David Tuveson appreciates Janowitz’s approach to cancer.

“Few scientists are ready to embrace the macro scale of cancer, the multiple organ systems and body functions which are impaired,” Tuveson said. Janowitz is “trying to understand the essential details [of cachexia and other cancer conditions] so he can interrupt parts of it and give patients a better chance to go on clinical trials that would fight their cancer cells.”

A successful and driven scientist and medical doctor, Janowitz “is very talented and could be anywhere,” Tuveson said, and was pleased his new colleague decided to join CSHL.

Janowitz suggested that the combination of weight loss and loss of appetite in advancing cancer is “paradoxical. Why would you not be ravenously hungry if you’re losing weight? What is going on that drives this biologically seemingly paradoxical phenomenon? Is it reversible or modifiable?”

At this point, his research has shown that tumors can reprogram the host metabolism in a way that it “profoundly affects immunity and can affect therapy.” Reversing cachexia may require an anti-IL-6 treatment, with nutritional support.

As he looks for clinical cases that could reveal the role of this protein in cachexia, Janowitz has seen that patients with IL-6-producing tumors may have a worse outcome, a finding he is now seeking to validate.

At this point, treatment for other conditions with anti-IL-6 drugs has produced few side effects, although patients with advanced cancer haven’t received such treatment. Researchers know how to dose antibodies to IL-6 in the human body and treatment intervals would last for a few weeks.

Scientists have long thought of cancer as being like a wound that doesn’t heal. IL-6 is important in infections and inflammation.

Ultimately, Janowitz hopes to extend his research findings to other diseases and conditions. To do that, he would need to take small steps with one disease before expanding an effective approach to other conditions. “Are disease processes enacting parts of the biological response that are interchangeable?” he asked. “I think that’s the case.”

Eventually, Janowitz hopes to engage in patient care, but he first needs to obtain a license to practice medicine in the United States. He hopes to take the steps to achieve certification in the next year.

He plans to gather samples from patients on Long Island to study cancer and its metabolic consequences, including cachexia.

Several years down the road, the scientist hopes the collaborations he has with neuroscientists can reveal basic properties of cancer.

Tuveson believes Janowitz has “the potential of having a big impact individually as well as on everyone around him,” at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “We are lucky to recruit him and want him to succeed and solve vexing problems so patients get better.”

Janowitz lives in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory housing with his wife Clary and their three children, Viola, 6, Arthur, 4, and Albert, 2.

Clary is a radiation oncologist who hopes to start working soon at Northwell Health.

The Janowitz family has found Long Island “very welcoming” and appreciates the area’s “openness and willingness to support people who have come here,” he said. The family enjoys exploring nature.

The couple met at a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which was performed by a traveling cast of the Globe in Emmanuel College Gardens in Cambridge, England.

As with many others, Janowitz has had family members who are living with cancer, including both of his parents. His mother has had cancer for more than a decade and struggles with loss of appetite and weight. He has met many patients and their relatives over the years who struggle with these phenomena, which is part of the motivation for his dedication to this work.

Most cancer patients, Janowitz said, are “remarkable individuals. They adjust the way that they interact with the world and themselves when they get life changing diagnoses.” Patients have a “very reflected and engaged attitude” with the disease, which makes looking after them “incredibly rewarding.”

A deer tick is a common type of tick on Long Island. Stock photo

North Shore communities have found a partner in the battle against ticks and the diseases they carry.

“This new partnership is another example of local governments working together to save taxpayer dollars and protect the public health of our residents.” 

— Steve Bellone

On March 6, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the SuffolkSHARE Public Health Partnership. A part of the county’s shared services initiative, the new partnership will leverage the efforts of 10 local governments and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to research and combat ticks and tick-borne illness, according to a press release from the county.

“This new partnership is another example of local governments working together to save taxpayer dollars and protect the public health of our residents,” Bellone said in the statement. “By taking collective action, we are expanding education, collection, and analysis to ensure that we have the information and resources at our disposal to deal with these illnesses head on.”

With the new partnership, towns and villages will be able to strengthen their efforts to combat ticks in ways that were previously prohibitive due to high cost and limited resources, according to the release.

The new partnership draws on efforts that include collecting data and procuring materials at lower costs while tracking progress over time. These processes are already underway by the Suffolk County Tick Control Advisory Committee, which researches and combats ticks and associated illnesses. According to the county, each year approximately 650 Suffolk residents contract a tick-borne illness, including Lyme disease.

Eight villages and two towns will work in conjunction with the county, including Asharoken, Northport, Head of the Harbor, Old Field and Belle Terre, according to the press release.

“Having the ability to work with other local governments and Suffolk County on this issue will give us the opportunity to address it effectively and affordably.”

— Bob Sandak

“Protecting public health is a priority for the Village of Belle Terre, and mitigating the risk of ticks and tick-borne illness is an important mission,” Bob Sandak, the Village of Belle Terre mayor, said in a statement. “Having the ability to work with other local governments and Suffolk County on this issue will give us the opportunity to address it effectively and affordably.”

Recently, Belle Terre moved to allow deer hunting within the village, citing that New York State is the only governing body that can restrict hunting. Sandak said at a Jan. 15 village meeting, where the possibility of deer culling in part with Port Jefferson Village was discussed, that in the near-mile radius of the village boundaries, there could be as many as 300 deer. It was expected that culling could bring the number of deer down to approximately 50.

The Department of Health Services will provide resources and guidance when it comes to ticks, while the county will facilitate testing of samples, collection of data and additional analysis. The cooperative procurement of corn, tickicide and other materials, as well as municipalities working together to collect samples to have them analyzed will happen at a cheaper rate due to consolidation, according to county officials.

The county health department and Suffolk County Department of Public Works Vector Control Unit will consult with villages launching their initial efforts at tick mitigation, tick-borne illness mitigation and deer mitigation, which may include municipalities sustaining a four-poster (also known as a deer feeder); using environmental controls, such as landscaping; and utilizing birth control. The participating local governments will assist the Department of Health Services with community education regarding the risk of ticks and how to avoid bites, tick collection for testing and health monitoring of residents.

According to the press release, North Haven, Saltaire and Shelter Island already operate four-posters. The deer feeders brush tickicide onto the animals to keep them free of ticks.

“While tick-borne illnesses remain a major concern amongst our community, we continue to look for new and innovative ways to protect the public’s health,” said Michael Levine, Village of Old Field mayor, in a statement. “Thanks to the work of County Executive Bellone and the creation of this new partnership, we will now be able to asses tick conditions, develop a comprehensive plan to combat this public health issues, and educate our residents on ways to stay safe.”

From the view of a Brit, drawing parallels to elections in the U.S.

Stock photo

By John Broven

Part 1 of 2

After 46 years, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is due to leave the European Union March 29 in an exercise that has been labeled Brexit. You may have heard the term on BBC World News, C-SPAN2’s “Prime Minister’s Questions” and John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” (HBO), or read about the ongoing saga in The New York Times or The Washington Post. Still, in general the United States media coverage has been relatively muted in what has been a complex, often hard-to-understand process. Yet there are enough parallel circumstances across the pond to warrant making it a big news event over here in the U.S.

John Broven. Photo by Diane Wattecamps

It certainly matters a lot if, like me, you were born in England and are not happy with the Brexit decision. Before I proceed with my personal observations, let me give a brief backdrop to the Brexit scenario.

Brexit is a crude abbreviation of “British exit” from the European political and economic union of 28 countries that allows seamless movement of goods and citizens between each member state. Britain’s withdrawal was determined by a referendum held June 23, 2016, in which the “leave” voters outpointed the “remain” side by 17.4 to 16.1 million. In percentage terms it was 51.89 to 48.11. The turnout was some 33.5 million voters out of a possible 46.5 million, 72.1 percent of the registered electorate. As I’ve been living over here for more than 15 years, I was not allowed to vote along with an estimated 700,000 expats and some 3 million EU citizens living in the UK. Gerrymandering, anyone?

The UK referendum

I well remember the day when Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) announced there would be a referendum for Britain to leave the EU after he was re-elected in the general election of May 7, 2015. He had been the country’s leader since 2010 in a coalition government with the pro-European Liberal Democrats, but against all expectation the Conservatives won the election outright. At the time I asked myself, “Why call a referendum?” What I didn’t know was that Cameron wanted to quell once and for all the rebellious EU leavers in his own party and thwart the rise of the populist United Kingdom Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage.

To my mind, Cameron compounded his disastrous decision of placing party politics on a national stage by agreeing to put the referendum to the people in the simplest of terms:

• Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union. Yes or No.

The openness of the referendum wording gave voters, fed up with years of austerity, a chance to kick the government without understanding the full consequences of their actions. The many dire economic warnings of a precipitous EU exit, ranging from the Bank of England governor to President Barack Obama (D), were riposted as fearmongering.

England and Wales voted to leave, Scotland and Northern Ireland did not. London voted overwhelmingly to remain, but the industrial North — the equivalent of our rust belt — predictably went to the leavers. Not surprisingly, the majority of the 50-and-overs, with their rose-tinted memories, voted to leave. On the other hand, the younger generation was largely in favor of remaining, feeling more European and with less attachment to the days of the British Empire. Interestingly, the peak share of any sector came from women between the ages of 18 and 24, with 80 percent voting to remain. Yet too many millennials, as over here in the last presidential election, did not bother to go to the voting booths.

As we have seen from the HBO film, “Brexit: The Uncivil War,” the Vote Leave campaign — led by notorious Cameron-backstabber Boris Johnson, U.S. President Donald Trump (R)-acolyte Farage, prominent Tory politicians such as the overbearing Jacob Rees-Mogg and double-dealer Michael Gove — were always a step ahead of Vote Remain, led by Cameron himself, future prime minister Theresa May and reticent Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The leave effort was brilliantly masterminded by Dominic Cummings who outflanked his traditionally minded opponents by using computer algorithms devised by Cambridge Analytica, partly owned — whisper it low — by Robert Mercer from our own Head of the Harbor village on Long Island.

With new data available, Cummings understood there was a raft of disaffected voters that had been ignored by politicians of all parties for years. He proceeded to woo them with an appealing slogan, “Let’s take back control,” aided by a red bus carrying the false message that leaving the EU would save the British people £350 million a week (about $450 million), adding, “Let’s fund our NHS [National Health Service] instead — Vote Leave.” Without justification, it was said the country would be overrun by Islamic immigrants should Turkey be admitted to the EU. (It hasn’t.) It was a campaign of distorted facts, appealing to those who remembered the good old days when Britannia ruled the waves and the world map was colored mostly British Empire pink.

Earlier, I mentioned “parallel circumstances” in relation to the U.S. How about disaffected and ignored voters, a fear campaign based on immigration and Islamophobia, protest votes, absent millennials, discarded trade agreements, gerrymandering, a populist insurrection — and, I hate to say it, fake news. Does that sound familiar?

Events of June 2016

I was in England the week before the referendum and was astonished at how the youthful, vibrant atmosphere I felt on my last visit had evaporated into a sour mood. As a confirmed Europhile, I was even more amazed to see how finely balanced the polls were. The omens were not good, especially when state broadcaster, British Broadcasting Corporation, adopted a neutral stance giving equal time to both campaigns. Why did the leave campaign, with no governmental responsibility or track record, deserve the same coverage as the in-power remainers?

I was still in England when staunch remain campaigner and promising Labour member of parliament, Jo Cox, was murdered June 16, 2016, in her native West Yorkshire at age 41 by a right-wing extremist. Had politics become so divisive that a life had to be taken? Surely, I thought, the British people, with their long-held sense of justice and fair play, would rebel against such a dastardly act and vote for the “good guys” out of respect to Cox. The referendum campaign was halted temporarily, but a news blackout contrived to neutralize any widespread outrage at her death.

Referendum night June 23 was covered in full over here by BBC World News. Ironically, with the five-hour time difference, U.S. viewers were more up to date than the sleeping British public. I knew the writing was on the wall when early voting in Sunderland and Swindon went to the leavers. And yet Sunderland, in the relatively impoverished North East, was home to a major Nissan factory (jobs, jobs, jobs), with Swindon in the affluent South West housing a big Honda factory. Both Japanese car companies used their English bases for easy access to the European markets. What were the voters in those towns thinking by voting leave?

The leave campaign was victorious. A distraught Cameron resigned July 11, 2016, to be succeeded by May. It was up to her to negotiate a withdrawal agreement with the EU, with a leaving date eventually set for March 29, 2019 — the end of this month. The protracted negotiations have been rocky, to say the least, and the outcome has still not been resolved at this late hour thanks mainly to a problem that should have been foreseen at the time of the referendum but wasn’t: the Irish backstop. Stay tuned.

Part 2 will bring matters up to date, with crucial parliamentary votes due to be held this week. John Broven, a member of the TBR News Media editorial team, is an English-born resident of East Setauket, and has written three award-winning (American) music history books.

From left, Tamar Cohen, Leah Ada Klein, Julia Berger and Max Kaylakov with their trophies at the award ceremony. Photo from The Chai Center

Winners from regional JewQ Championships from around the United States and abroad came together to face off at the international championships in Brooklyn on March 3.

Thousands of JewQ students in grades 3 to 6 from Hebrew schools around the globe learned and were tested on a wide range of Jewish knowledge, such as basic prayers, blessings, Jewish holidays, Torah traditions and more.

Students with the top scores were invited to spend a Shabbat together in Crown Heights and compete in the final round of JewQ in front of a live audience.

Dix Hills resident Max Kaylakov of The Chai Center Hebrew School was crowned the Sixth-Grade international JewQ champ. Max is a student at Candlewood Middle School in the Half Hollow Hills Central School District.

Other winners of the contest were Tamar Cohen representing the Chabad Hebrew School of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, in the third-grade division; Leah Ada Klein representing Chabad of Niagara Falls, Ontario, in the fourth-grade division; and Julia Berger from the Chabad of Port Washington Hebrew School in Port Washington, in the fifth-grade division.

“It is incredible to see the vast amount of knowledge Max and all the children learned in a few short months,” said Rabbi Dovid Weinbaum, youth director of The Chai Center. “My hope is this will inspire them to want to learn more about Judaism and the world around them.”

Political cartoon by Jake Fuller. Image courtesy of SunshineWeek.org

By Donna Deedy

It’s Sunshine Week (March 10-16), time for recognizing and celebrating the importance of freedom of information  laws and open government in our democracy.

Newsrooms nationwide are participating in the weeklong event, which specifically aims to help people better understand their everyday right-to-know under federal and state laws. Sponsored since 2005 by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Society of News Editors, TBR News Media is joining in for this year’s tribute. 

We’re focusing on New York State’s Freedom of Information Law. First enacted in 1974, the law succinctly states: “The people’s right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is fundamental to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or confidentiality.” The law applies to schools and all government entities within the state.  

We’ve taken a look at the websites of towns and villages within our circulation area on Long Island’s North Shore to gauge whether or not the process is user-friendly. 

What we’ve found is most entities acknowledge their obligation to respond to Freedom of Information Law, or FOIL, requests. The towns of Huntington, Smithtown and Brookhaven post their record access codes online, along with most incorporated villages.   Rather than posting their FOIL codes, the villages of Huntington Bay, Nissequogue, Head of the Harbor and Port Jefferson simply provide a link to a one-page preprinted FOIL request form. Port Jefferson village online code explicitly directs the public to visit Village Hall during business hours to examine its record access policy. 

Political cartoon by Joe Heller. Image courtesy of SunshineWeek.org

It’s important to note that state legislators created a special unit within New York State to answer the public’s questions and render legal opinions about open government practices. The unit, known as the Committee on Open Government, has determined government entities should not mandate the use of record request application forms. 

Villages that currently require the public to use their application forms to request records may need to revise their practices to align with state’s legal advisory opinions. 

“There’s no obligation on behalf of the requester to travel to town or village offices to view records,” said Robert Freeman, the executive director of New York State Committee on Open Government.

Fortunately, requesting records in the electronic age is easier than ever. If documents aren’t already posted online, people can simply request copies of records via an email to the record access officer. Instructions can be found on the state department’s website: https://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/freedomfaq.html#howrequestemail. The record request template clearly outlines requesters basic rights within the form letter. 

Christian Trejabal is the open government chair for the Association of Opinion Journalists.  In a blogpost for Sunshine Week he opined on the need for journalists in this day and age.

“Thousands of newspapers have closed over the last 20 years,” Trejabal said. “Tens of thousands of journalists have lost their jobs. Without them, government is under less scrutiny, and that isn’t healthy for democracy.” 

If you would like to know more, visit the New York Department of State Committee on Open Government website. It provides volumes of information about the Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law and the Personal Privacy Protection Law. The committee’s lawyers can also be reached by telephone at 518-474-2518. 

Donna Deedy is currently a freelancer for TBR News Media, and has years of experience in the journalism field.

Seventh-grade science teacher John Braun donned a green mohawk and bellowed on bagpipes as he led a group of students into a packed Northport-East Northport Middle School auditorium. At the district’s St. Baldrick’s Day event, March 8, around 39 students and staff volunteered their time and lined up to shave their heads in support of childhood cancer research. 

Since 2007, the middle school has raised nearly $215,000 and its team, The Bald Tigers, has raised more than $14,000 this year. 

“I thought it was going to run its course, maybe be a year or two, but it has gotten bigger and bigger every year,” Braun said. “The kids get really excited to get involved and be a part of it.”

When Braun was in middle school, his best friend’s older brother died of cancer. He said that story is why he became involved with St. Baldrick’s. 

Over the years, the district has been impacted by childhood cancer, and for this year’s shave they honored a number of individuals including Caleb Paquet, who died in August 2017 after a battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and Danielle DeSimone, a former student who at 19 was diagnosed with leukemia. 

DeSimone couldn’t be at the event but sent a video thanking the crowd for participating in the event and for continuing to raise awareness for childhood cancer research. 

The crowd listened to her story of how one week she was surfing with her friends, and the next week she was in a hospital bed where she stayed for five months receiving treatment. After seven rounds of chemotherapy she was informed that she was a candidate for a bone marrow transplant. She received a transplant from a person in Germany and went on to say one day she hopes to meet them.   

“I’m still in recovery — it’s tough and a really slow process but one thing that has been consistent throughout everything has been the support of the Northport-East Northport community,” DeSimone said. “Every well-wish just reminds me every single day to keep going and that I have a full community of people behind just rooting for me and pushing me to get to my goal of getting better.” 

Nicole Paquet, the mother of Caleb, also spoke at the event about her personal experiences.

She said her son, up until he received news of his diagnosis, was very much like Danielle, a robust, healthy person who was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed long distance walks. 

“You are not just shaving your head, wearing a T-shirt and getting a green hair extension, you are a part of a much bigger mission today,” she said. 

Caleb’s mother added many research hospitals are able to receive grants to help them come up with better treatments for cancer thanks to the money raised from St. Baldrick’s events. 

“Many children’s lives will be saved because of this research and treatment — I have hope that more types of treatment will be developed in the years to come,” Paquet said. “I also have a grand hope that there will be a cure for cancer in my lifetime.”

This year’s St. Baldrick’s event also honored Charlotte Stewart, a current middle school student who is battling cancer. When she was called up on stage to participate in the head-shave she received a loud ovation from the packed crowd.   

Braun couldn’t have been happier with this year’s turnout. 

“The community is great — I grew up here, I went to school here, I still live here — they’ve always been super supportive of any event we do, and I couldn’t imagine doing this
anywhere else.”

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Suffolk County officials have set their sights on the wallet of a disgraced ex-police chief, looking to recoup costs of litigation.

Nearly three months after Suffolk County legislators tabled a proposal to sue former police chief James Burke over the $1.5 million settlement it paid out to his victim, the Suffolk County Legislature passed a measure March 5 to begin a lawsuit in an attempt to recoup compensation and salary Burke had received up to when he resigned in October 2015. 

“Burke clearly breached the oath he took as an officer and the duty he owed the county to serve in his capacity faithfully and lawfully,” Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said. The Smithtown legislator was the main sponsor of the bill. 

The bill would authorize the county attorney to file a lawsuit by using “the faithless servant doctrine,” which dates back to the 19th century and allows employers to recoup all compensation paid to an employee while they acted in a disloyal manner. 

The resolution was drafted to recover the compensation paid specifically to Burke and no other county employee. 

“It feels great,” Trotta said. “Finally a victory for Suffolk County taxpayers.”

Originally, Trotta wanted to recoup money from a 2018 settlement the county paid to Christopher Loeb, who was shackled and beaten by Burke back in 2012 as part of a cover-up. County attorney Dennis Brown said at a December 2018 Ways and Means Committee public hearing there was no basis for a possible lawsuit and there was no way to recover or recoup the settlement dollars paid in the lawsuit, according to previous reporting by TBR News Media.  

In the federal civil lawsuit, the county agreed to pay the settlement amount for the civil rights offenses as they were the ex-police chief’s employer at the time. The county also paid the settlement for the actions of six other police officers who helped cover up Burke’s actions when he allegedly beat a handcuffed man for stealing a duffle bag from his vehicle.  

At the same hearing, Howard Miller, a Garden City-based attorney with the law firm Bond Schoeneck & King, presented a case for the county suing Burke for his wages and compensation paid by the county under the faithless servant doctrine.

Miller mentioned that he had successfully represented clients at the state level in similar lawsuits, including the William Floyd School District.

“This doctrine is designed to create a deterrent to future acts like this, of corruption and misconduct,” Miller said at the December 2018 public hearing.

Brown also said in a statement that the Suffolk County Charter authorizes either the county executive or the Legislature to direct legal action. The resolution that was passed by the Legislature provides a framework specific to that action, but does not limit the ability of the county executive to pursue additional legal action.

Trotta hopes the measure sets a precedent that anyone, whether in government or not, will be held accountable for their actions. 

“Former District Attorney Spota empowered and conspired with Jim Burke and Chris McPartland,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) spokesperson Jason Elan said in a statement. “Clearly, all three fall under the faithless servant doctrine so any legal action to recoup taxpayer-funded salary and benefits should include each individual.”

According to a representative from the county executive’s office, Bellone signed the legislation to recover salary and benefits from Burke on March 11 and further directed a similar suit be filed against ex-District Attorney Thomas Spota and his top aide who have also been indicted on related charges.

Residents in Huntington were dressed in green, contrasting well with the gray skies above. Despite a drizzling rain, thousands still stepped out dressed in St. Patrick’s Day flair to enjoy a day of Irish pride during the 85th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 10.

This year’s grand marshal was Timothy Rossiter, 72, a member of the Huntington division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and president of the Rossiter Financial Group. 

The march featured several drum and pipe bands, along with local groups including local Boy Scout troops, VFWs, New York State Nurses Association and many others.

All photos by David Ackerman

By David Luces

Students, teachers and parents in Commack recently went bald for a cause.

For the 10th year running, members of the Commack School District and surrounding community gathered at the high school March 1 to shave their heads in support of childhood cancer research. Over 100 people participated to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a not-for-profit whose goal is to raise funds to find cures for childhood cancer. 

In the past nine years the district has held the event, Commack has raised over $650,000. This year the district raised close to $45,000, with some teams donating well over $10,000. 

The annual event is organized by Commack High School teachers Lee Tunick, Bill Scaduto and Dan Revera. Since its inception, close to 1,000 people have shaved their heads in solidarity to those suffering childhood cancer. Hairdressing students from Eastern Suffolk BOCES donated their time to cut the participants hair.

The idea for the fundraiser came about through a cancer awareness club that Revera and Scaduto ran at the high school for quite some time. 

“Bill Scaduto and myself have been working in this building for 20 years,” said Revera. At that time St. Baldrick’s didn’t exist as we know it today. When we first found out about St. Baldrick’s, we would go to a school in Northport and a colleague of mine thought why don’t we host our own event here [at the high school].” 

Now with the event in its 10th year, Revera said it is great to see Commack School District students and community come out to support this.  

“One of the main influx of people [that come here] are the elementary students,” the high school teacher said. “Anything that we can do to generate [money] to help these kids who are going through this is great.” Revera added that the students that came to the event have shown bravery, have stood up for what’s right and are dedicated to a good cause. 

“That’s why we are here,” he said. “Just the thought of a family going through something like this and dealing with their child battling cancer — I can’t even imagine. If providing one day where we can support them and try to help however we can, it’s the least we can do.”

Huntington town board listens to residents complaints at a March 5 meeting. Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

In response to the Town of Huntington proposed legislation to change the town’s traffic code, residents voiced their concerns and displeasure of the possible stricter penalties and its potential ramifications at a public hearing at Town Hall March 5. 

The proposed amendments would increase fines for violations, enhance enforcement and help collect on parking violations. These changes are part of the town’s approaches to alleviate parking issues in Huntington.

Engineer and Huntington resident Daniel Karpen took exception to the changes, saying it would bar residents from obtaining town-issued permits until parking tickets are cleared up.

“I don’t know why one has to deal with the other — why would you want to penalize people who want to take their child to the beach but have to deal with a ticket when they couldn’t find a place to park,” Karpen said. “This is mean to the public.”

Part of the parking changes would also include a requirement that parking summons and tickets be answered within 30 days or face an imposed default judgment, the nonrenewal of their New York State motor vehicle registration and possible immobilization.

Karpen cited the reason residents are getting fined is because there is a shortage of parking spaces in Huntington. He said a year ago he came to a town board meeting asking for more small car parking lots in the area. 

“I liked to know what progress has been made to put small car parking lots in downtown Huntington,” he told the town board. 

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) responded that the town has eyed several locations for additional parking areas and mentioned they are awaiting the final results of the $16,000 study of a proposed parking garage, which was approved in October, 2018. 

“We do believe stronger enforcement will encourage a change in driver behavior and end the abuse of time limits for free parking, both of which we expect to have a positive impact on the parking experience in downtown Huntington,” Lupinacci said.

Currently, the fine for not paying for parking in one of the town’s metered spaces comes out to $25. If Lupinacci’s proposed changes are approved the charge would increase to $75. If an individual is caught without a permit in a handicapped spot, the charge would increase from a flat fine of $200 up to a maximum of $600. 

Paul Warburgh, who has been a parking violation volunteer for the town for over five years, said under the resolutions the town would do away with the volunteers, and their duties would be taken over by the town’s uniform public safety officers. 

“The volunteers are on duty seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Warburgh said. “I’m on duty at the Stop & Shop at 8:30 in the morning witnessing fire lane and handicapped violations.” 

He acknowledged the need for some changes to be made to the volunteer program, but it didn’t mean the town should get rid of it and asked the board to reconsider the proposal. 

“Are we going to get a uniformed officer there at that time, or at the post office at night when people decide to pull into the handicapped parking spaces because they feel like they’re entitled to do so?,” Warburgh said. “We are the enforcement — we provide a public service and we try to do our best.”

Jeff Bartels, of Lloyd Harbor, brought up the issue of handicapped parking within the town. 

“Who is getting some of these handicapped permits?,” he asked. “I mean I see these construction trucks [parked] — the guy is doing constructing and has a handicapped tag on his mirror. How can you be handicapped and be a contractor — that doesn’t really fit.” 

Linked with the proposed changes is also an amnesty program. The town will be offering a one-time 40 percent discount on the balance of an unpaid parking fine through April 1 as it tries to deal with residents owing more than $1.8 million in about 4,700 unpaid parking summonses and penalties.

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