Times of Huntington-Northport

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A motorcyclist was seriously injured in Huntington after colliding with a car driven by a Huntington Station teen on Thursday night, according to police.

Suffolk County Police said they are investigating the motor vehicle crash, which took place at New York Avenue and Prime Avenue in Huntington. Quincy Nelson, 17, was driving a 2005 Chrysler 300 southbound on New York Avenue when he made a left turn onto Prime, colliding with Lee Ownes, 33, of Brooklyn, who was driving a 1974 Honda motorcycle at about 9 p.m.

Owens was transported to a local hospital where he is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries for a dislocated shoulder and a sever laceration to his left leg. Nelson and his two male passengers were uninjured.

No tickets were issued. The vehicle and the motorcycle were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is continuing.

Detectives are asking anyone with information about this crash to contact Second Squad detectives at 631-854-8252.

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A toxic one-gallon bottle of sodium hydrochlorite spilled in a FedEx car in Huntington village on Wednesday, impairing the driver’s ability to breathe.

At 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the Huntington Fire Department received a call from the Suffolk County Police Department regarding a hazardous materials incident on Green Street, according to Huntington Fire Department Chief Robert Berry. The department responded to the scene along with the Town of Islip HAZMAT TEAM. The team was able to secure the material.

The Fedex truck was carrying four one-gallon bottles of sodium hydrochlorite, an additive used in cleaning supplies, when one of the bottles opened and leaked in the truck.

The driver was transported to Huntington Hospital, Berry said, after having difficulty breathing.

FedEx didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment this week.

Suffolk Republicans select candidate with experience serving as town councilman, building commissioner

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone file photo

The Suffolk County executive race is on.

Jim O'Connor is stepping up to challenge Steve Bellone for Suffolk County Executive. Photo from Jim O'Connor
Jim O’Connor is stepping up to challenge Steve Bellone for Suffolk County Executive. Photo from Jim O’Connor

County Republicans have selected Jim O’Connor to challenge Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in November. And in his words, O’Connor said he could not be more honored to represent his party in the pivotal race.

“John Jay LaValle [chairman of the Suffolk County Republican Committee] called me up and asked me if I would be interested in the position, and I said of course,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you be interested in that position?”

O’Connor, now a resident of Great River, is a partner in the Manhattan law firm of Maroney O’Connor LLP. He has a long resume of working in local government, starting in the Town of North Hempstead in 1998 as an elected councilman, where he served until 2001. From 2006-08, O’Connor was appointed building commissioner for North Hempstead.

He had a very brief run at the Nassau county executive spot in 2001 — for approximately 48 hours, to be exact — before the Nassau Republicans chose to back candidate Bruce Bent instead.

O’Connor’s opponent, Bellone, also garnered similar public service accolades before assuming office at the county level in 2011. Bellone served on the Babylon Town Board for four years, starting in 1997, and was then elected supervisor of Babylon Township in 2001.

Since being voted into office, Bellone said he was proud of passing three consecutive balanced budgets under the tax cap, securing a $383 million investment in clean water infrastructure — the largest of the county in 40 years — and negotiating labor contracts that make new employees more affordable and requires new employees to contribute to health care costs.

“We must continue to move Suffolk County forward,” Bellone said in an email through a spokesperson. “While we have made a lot of progress there is so much work left to do.”

Specifics of moving Suffolk County forward, Bellone said, include continuing to hold the line on taxes, creating new jobs, growing the economy and keeping young people on Long Island.

Bellone also said he is interested in utilizing better the many assets that Suffolk County has, including Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. If re-elected, he said he wants to make sure the county is leveraging those assets to create innovation jobs.

But O’Connor said he found flaws in the way that Bellone has handled the financial aspects of the county.

“The attitude is, ‘Let’s put off tomorrow what we could do today,’ and that is hurting my children and my children’s children, in terms of the amount of debt that will fall on their shoulders,” O’Connor said in a phone interview.

Under an O’Connor administration, there would be an implementation of a Suffolk County debt management plan, which would start the process of a debt ceiling, much like what has been done in Washington D.C., O’Connor told Times Beacon Record Newspapers in an exclusive interview.

“It’s a simple concept,” he said. “Let’s look at the county’s existing revenue streams and compare it to the county’s maturing debt in an effort to retire, or reduce, the interest payments that will burden future generations of Suffolk residents.”

Suffolk County has $180 million of structural deficit and more than $1.5 billion in cumulative debt, according to O’Connor, who said these factors have led the New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a Democrat, to say that the county is in fiscal distress. O’Connor said he wants to stand up for the taxpayers of the county.

According to Bellone, when he first entered office, Suffolk County’s finances were in free fall, with a deficit of more than $400 million. He has since cut the deficit significantly by shrinking the government by more than 10 percent.

“I know that Suffolk County taxpayers are overburdened,” Bellone said. “That’s why I am committed to staying under the property tax cap at the same time as I cut my own salary and volunteered to be the first employee in the history of Suffolk County to directly contribute to their health care.”

Keith Davies, campaign manager for Bellone, said his candidate was the right choice for residents to continue moving Suffolk County forward: “Steve Bellone has a proven record of protecting our tax dollars and our quality of life. He’s balanced three consecutive budgets, kept taxes under the tax cap and protected our drinking water by investing in our clean water infrastructure.”

The Suffolk County Republicans, however, said they believed O’Connor would lead the county in a better direction.

In a statement, LaValle said O’Connor’s reputation from both Democrats and Republicans from North Hempstead is what drew him to asking him to fight for the position.

“He’s a guy that is very well respected of course by Republicans in the area, but also by many Democrats,” LaValle said. “In this day and age of almost political hate, here is a guy where not only Republicans but prominent Democrats were speaking very highly of him. That stuck with me.”

Huntington nonprofit affords teachers a creative license

Officials break ground on a Huntington Foundation for Excellence in Education-funded pond at the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School. File photo

In a time when most news about education is related to highly controversial state-mandated standardized testing, one Huntington nonprofit seems too good to be true.

The Huntington Foundation for Excellence in Education will reach $1 million in funded grants next year since its inception in June 1993, according to the foundation. HFEE is “dedicated to enhancing the quality of the Huntington public schools in education, the arts and athletics,” according to its mission statement. Its funding comes entirely from donations and 100 percent of that money goes back into the school district.

“We are very lucky to have had such concerned parents back in 1993 to have formed such an awesome organization,” Maria Cassar, co-president and board of directors member since 2004, said in an interview this week. “HFEE has donated so much to the district and has become an organization that teachers, parents and students can come to with great ideas for our school district,” she said.

“Teachers come to us with so much enthusiasm for special projects,” Cassar said. She mentioned a hydration water filling station and a cell culture lab at the high school as a couple of her favorite projects from recent years.

Some other grants listed on the foundation’s website include a freshwater ecosystem pond at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School last May and a donation to the school district’s athletic department that included a three-dimensional climbing wall, a defibrillator and a new shell (a boat used for crew) for the crew team in 2013.

In 2015, HFEE funded grants for a gem stonecutter at the high school, a 3D printer for J. Taylor Finley Middle School and other projects totaling more than $40,000.

Teachers in the Huntington school district understand how lucky they are to have a support system like HFEE that allows them to come forward with creative ideas that often receive funding.

“It’s huge,” Maryann Daly, an employee of the Huntington school district for 33 years, said about the support both financially and creatively that she receives from HFEE. She estimated that she has personally written about $60,000 worth of grants over the years. “It’s what the association between parents and teachers is all about,” she said.

Daly is the chairperson of the district’s SEARCH program, which stands for Scholastic Enrichment and Resource for Children in Huntington. The program is designed to provide hands-on group instruction for the most gifted and talented of the district’s students.

Daly’s job involves implementing a creative curriculum meant to enrich and supplement traditional education, so the assistance that she has received from HFEE and the ability to spread those creative and enriching ideas to the whole district is irreplaceable, she said. Daly said that her position forces her to “think outside the box,” and that is never an issue for HFEE.

One of Daly’s favorite grants was funded by HFEE in 2004. The $15,200 grant replaced the district’s old Starlab, or a portable planetarium, with a brand new one. Another program, which started in 2004 and continued through 2014, allowed fourth-grade students to receive two one-hour lessons from the New York Hall of Science in preparation for a standardized test.

“The Huntington Foundation is absolutely amazing,” Tracey McManus, a teacher at Jack Abrams and an employee of the district for 15 years, said in an email this week. “They have helped me incorporate such unbelievable experiences for my students.” McManus cited a grant for an incubator used to hatch ducks and a grant in 2014 for the pond where she later saw ducks swimming as a couple of her favorite projects funded by HFEE.

Brian Reynolds, an employee of the Huntington school district for 25 years and a current technology teacher at the high school, fondly remembered the “smile from ear to ear” on a student who won a car race on a track for CO2 cars in front of his entire lunch period. He said the boy was virtually skipping through the halls for days after. Reynolds said it was the first thing the boy ever won in his life.

“It is a very exciting year for the Huntington Foundation for Excellence in Education,” Cassar said, looking forward to the 2015-16 school year. “We are all so thrilled to pass the $1 million mark in what we have funded for the school district.”

The foundation offers a few different types of grants to teachers in the district for special classroom enhancement projects, in addition to one $1,000 scholarship for a graduating senior and one scholarship for a lucky sixth-grader interested in a three-day environmental camp, according to the HFEE website.

For more information or to donate to HFEE visit www.huntingtonfoundation.org.

Newly elected Trustee Christine Biernacki takes her oath of office on Monday. Photo by Rohma Abbas

A new leader has taken the helm of the Huntington school board.

Trustee Tom DiGiacomo was unanimously voted the president of the school board at the board’s reorganizational meeting on Monday evening. Trustee Xavier Palacios nominated him for the position, and Trustee Bari Fehrs seconded his nomination.

Trustee Jennifer Hebert maintained her position as vice president of the board.

Newly appointed school board President Tom DiGiacomo is sworn in. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Newly appointed school board President Tom DiGiacomo is sworn in. Photo by Rohma Abbas

DiGiacomo succeeds incumbent President Emily Rogan, a nine-year member of the board, who has held the leadership role for four years.

After his appointment as president, DiGiacomo publicly thanked Rogan for her leadership, noting she’d “done an excellent job in helping our district improve.” He noted, at one point, that he had “big shoes” to fill.

When reached by phone on Wednesday, Rogan said she supported DiGiacomo.

“I think he will do a terrific job,” she said. “Tom has my support 100 percent. Did I still want to be president? I would have gladly been president. There were trustees on the board who wanted a change.”

In an interview after the meeting, DiGiacomo spoke briefly about his appointment.

“I’m honored and privileged that my fellow trustees have nominated me and made me president.”

Newly elected Trustee Christine Biernacki also took an oath of office at Monday night’s meeting, along with several other school officials, including Superintendent Jim Polansky and District Clerk Joanne Miranda.

New Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer is sworn in on July 1. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Change is in the air at Northport-East Northport schools.

School board Trustee Andrew Rapiejko, a five-year incumbent who served as vice president, was sworn in as the board’s president at its reorganizational meeting on Wednesday, following a nomination by departing president, Julia Binger, and an 8-1 vote. Trustee Regina Pisacani was the lone vote against the appointment.

David Badanes take oaths of office. Photo by Rohma Abbas
David Badanes take oaths of office. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Newly re-elected Trustee David Badanes was nominated and voted vice president of the board — but not without an unsuccessful attempt by Pisacani to nominate newcomer Trustee David Stein to the slot. Her motion to do so failed to gain support, and Badanes was unanimously appointed.

The July 1 meeting was the district’s first with new Superintendent Robert Banzer at the helm. Banzer, along with Stein, recently re-elected Trustee Tammie Topel, Badanes, District Clerk Beth Nystrom and new audit committee member Edward Kevorkian were all officially sworn in.

In his remarks to the community, Rapiejko called it a “critical year” for the district, and pointedly addressed what he called a divide on the board.

“The elephant in the room is this split on the board,” he said

Tammie Topel is sworn in. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Tammie Topel is sworn in. Photo by Rohma Abbas

While the board typically votes unanimously on most items, Rapiejko said in a Thursday phone interview that the community perceives a divide on the school board. Those differences among board members have given rise to tensions that began under the administration of former Superintendent Marylou McDermott, he said.

“The former superintendent is out of the equation now,” he said in his speech on Wednesday. “And I’m looking forward and to move on. I think we have to move forward and it’s critical we do that.”

He urged the school community to respect each other and said it is the board’s responsibility to set that tone of respect. In a phone interview, he said he was heartened that his appointment earned almost unanimous support, which hasn’t been the norm at reorganizational meetings in recent years past.

“We can disagree, we can have very strong opinions, but there’s a way to do it and a way to do it respectfully,” he said.

School auditorim dedicated in honor of late advocate as family members, former colleagues pay him tribute

Meredith Spector hugs Jim Polansky at a memorial celebration in honor of Adam Spector that saw the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School auditorium dedicated in his name. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The memory of the late Adam Spector will live on at the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School.

On Monday night, friends and family of Spector, who lost a battle with cancer last year, gathered to dedicate the school’s auditorium to him and to tell stories about a man who endeared many at a venue for which he cared deeply.

There was hardly a dry eye among Spector’s colleagues.

“I think about Adam every single day,” said Jennifer Hebert, vice president of the Huntington board of education. “There’s not a day that goes by that he’s not in my heart.”

Huntington Superintendent Jim Polansky’s voice broke as he offered personal words about Spector.

He said when he first got to know Spector, the two had no idea they grew up in the same hometown. Polansky jokingly said he recently flipped through his high school yearbook to find Spector in it, “featured more prominently” than he was.

“Adam was always one to keep me on my toes with his questions and most importantly his enduring sense of humor,” Polansky said. “It was always apparent that he loved Huntington and that this school district had a very special place in his heart. He was one of the strongest people I ever met.”

Other school board trustees also offered touching words.

“He was my enzyme, my catalyst into being involved in the board of education,” Trustee Xavier Palacios said, his voice breaking. “His spirit will always live here. I’ll never forget what he taught me.”

Meredith Spector, Adam Spector’s wife, said renaming the auditorium was a fitting tribute to her husband, who always wanted to see the school reopened after it was shuttered several years ago following a rash of crime in the area. Spector made reopening Jack Abrams one of the main thrusts of his campaign for school board. She called the board’s decision to reopen the school as a STEM school “turning lemons into lemonade,” and something Spector was greatly honored to be a part of.

“It’s truly an honor and Adam would be so happy,” she said in an interview before the meeting. “He was so happy and proud to be part of the board of ed and such a great team. They turned what was a bad situation, the closing of Jack Abrams Intermediate, into something so wonderful, the STEM school.”

The new name of the auditorium, the Adam Spector Memorial Auditorium, is affixed in bold letters to a brick wall outside the auditorium. In a celebratory gesture, family members flanked by a group of people ripped the protective covering off the brand new sign.

Car trouble
Things got a little crazy on Woodhull Avenue in Port Jefferson Station on July 4, at around 10:05 p.m., when someone threw items at a 2013 Hyundai and damaged a car door.

Midnight mischief
An unknown person slashed the driver side tire of a 2007 Hyundai parked on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station on July 3.

Ride denied
A woman reported being harassed by a cab driver on June 30 at around 3 p.m. According to police, the complainant said she called a cab service to pick her up from a dollar store in Port Jefferson Station, but the driver refused to take her. He then allegedly pushed her and took her grocery bags out of the cab and drove away.

Poor house
An unknown person stole cash from the register at L.I. Pour House Bar and Grill in Port Jefferson Station on June 29 at around 1:30 a.m.

Explosive
A Mount Sinai Grasslands Circle resident reported their mailbox and garage door had been damaged by some sort of explosives on July 3.

Making waves
An unknown person took a 2006 motor from a boat moored in Mount Sinai Harbor on July 5 at some point between midnight and noon.

Seeing red
There were two separate road rage incidents in Centereach last week. According to police, on July 2, a victim was driving northbound on Nicolls Road by Hammond Road in Centereach when they encountered the suspect, who, at some point, punched the victim in the face. The suspect took off.
Two days later, on July 4, a female driver reported that while at an exit ramp of Nicolls Road in Centereach, six males on motorcycles began kicking her 2013 Hyundai and slashed its tires.

Getaway
A Fountain Avenue in Selden resident, outside his home on June 30, reported seeing someone walking with a satchel or pillowcase on his street. When he returned to his apartment, he found the suspect inside his residence. The two began fighting and the suspect fled with a stolen silver bracelet, kindle and phone charger.

Long weekend
A 21-year-old Mount Sinai resident was arrested in Selden and charged with DWI-first offense on July 3. According to police, the man was pulled over after he failed to stop at a stop sign while driving a 1998 Honda northbound on Bicycle Path.

Pills and pocketbooks
A 26-year-old Sound Beach man was arrested in Selden and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and fourth-degree grand larceny. According to police, he was arrested on July 2 and was found in possession of Xanax without a prescription. Police said the man is also accused of breaking into a 2010 Volkswagen on June 25 in Port Jefferson and stealing a pocketbook containing credit cards.

Bank robber sought
Suffolk County Police are seeking the public’s help in identifying and locating a man who allegedly robbed a Centereach bank in June.
On Friday, June 26, a man entered the People’s United Bank, located on Middle Country Road, approached a teller at approximately 11:30 a.m. and presented a note demanding cash. The teller complied and the man fled on foot.
Police described the suspect as white, between 45 and 50 years old and approximately 5 feet 7 inches tall with a heavy build. He was wearing a black T-shirt, dark jeans, sunglasses and what appears to be a dark-colored baseball cap.
Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.
For video of the bank robbery, go to www.YouTube.com/scpdtv. Click on the link “Wanted for Bank Robbery CC# 15-370331.”
Luck of the draw
Someone stole keys and Yu-Gi-Oh! collector cards from a 2009 Hyundai parked at AMC Loews Stony Brook 17 on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook sometime between July 3 at 10:45 p.m. and July 4 at 1:30 a.m. There are no arrests.

Louis Vuitton bag stolen
Someone took a Louis Vuitton pocketbook, cash, a wallet and clothing from a 2015 Toyota 4Runner parked in the lot at Marshall’s on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook. The incident happened sometime between 5 and 6 p.m. on July 1.

Laptop lifted
Police said someone took an Apple Macbook Pro computer from an unlocked 2002 Nissan Altima sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. on July 1 on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook. There are no arrests.

Grandma scammed
A Setauket woman who is a resident of Francis Street told police on July 1 that she was the victim of a phone scam. She said someone called her saying her grandson was arrested after being involved in a car crash and that she needed to send money to get him home. She sent money via MoneyGram.

Checked out
Someone stole the identity of an Upper Sheep Pasture Road man from Setauket-East Setauket and took money from his JP Morgan Chase checking account. Police said the incident occurred sometime between June 2 at 9 a.m. and June 30 at 2:05 p.m.

Police search for pickpocket
Suffolk County Police are seeking the public’s help in identifying and locating a couple who are wanted for questioning in a grand larceny investigation in Commack.
A man and woman were shopping in Dress Gala, located on Jericho Turnpike, on May 21 at approximately 5:10 p.m. when the man reached into an employee’s pocketbook and stole credit cards.
Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

Shoplifter busted
Police said a 42-year-old man from Hauppauge was arrested on July 5 at the 4th Precinct and charged with petit larceny. According to police, the man stole a garbage pail, sleepwear, lunch bag, socks and other clothing from Walmart on Veterans Memorial Highway in Islandia on July 5 at 11:53 a.m.

That’s my $50
An 18-year-old man from St. James was arrested on July 3 at the 4th Precinct and charged with fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property. Police said that the man had $50 that belonged to someone else. The alleged crime occurred on Old Dock Road in Kings Park on July 1 at 11:30 p.m., police said.

Joy ride cut short
Police arrested a 20-year-old Commack man in Smithtown on July 2 and charged him with driving while ability impaired by drugs and alcohol — the drug being marijuana. Police said that on July 2 at 12:12 a.m., on Route 25A at West Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown, the man was driving a 1997 Ford and failed to maintain his lane. He was arrested at the scene.

Taking it off
A 50-year-old man from Middle Island was arrested at the 4th Precinct on July 2 and charged with lewdness — exposing his body in public. Police said the man exposed his private parts on June 30 while parked in a car at 7-Eleven on Motor Parkway in Hauppauge at 1:02 p.m.

Justice served
Police said they arrested a 27-year-old man from Astoria on July 1 who punched another man in the face while he was sitting in a chair at Napper Tandy’s on East Main Street in Smithtown on May 24. The man required medical attention for his injuries. The 27-year-old was arrested at the 4th Precinct at about 5:25 p.m.

A case of road rage
Two men who were involved in a car accident on Route 347 in Smithtown got into a fit of road rage, according to police. One man got out of the car and started yelling at the other man, grabbing him. The two eventually punched each other. Both plan to press charges, police said. The incident happened westbound on Route 347 on July 2, between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Crab Meadow Beach. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Strong winds left three kayakers lost and adrift on Tuesday before emergency responders brought them to shore, the Suffolk County Police Department said.

Michael Fisher, 16, his brother Matthew Fisher, 20, and Kevin Nobs, 16, all of East Northport, were a little more than one mile north of Crab Meadow Beach in Fort Salonga when police said winds picked up and brought them out into the Long Island Sound — too far for them to paddle back to shore. Nobs’ kayak had overturned while Matthew Fisher jumped out of his kayak to attempt to swim to shore, police said.

The three had become separated in the exchange, and were floating as two lifeguards at Crab Meadow Beach grabbed their long boards and jumped into the water to try and save them. They were, however, unsuccessful.

Marine Bureau Police officers Paul Carnival and Keith Walters responded to the incident and rescued all three kayakers along with the two lifeguards who tried to save them. The kayakers did not require medial attention, police said.

Asharoken Police Officer-in-Charge Ray Mahdesian inspects the damage to the rowboat. Photo by Steve Silverman

A pair of siblings jumped out of a rowboat moments before a 22-foot vessel struck it in Asharoken last Friday.

Asharoken Village Police responded to a boat collision in Duck Island Harbor on July 3 at 3:45 p.m. involving a MasterCraft boat that, while towing two water boarders, struck the rowboat, according to Steve Silverman, a spokesman for the police.

The rowboat was severely damaged and partially sank following the collision.

According to Silverman, the operator of the MasterCraft boat, Stephen Plackis of Huntington, was issued two summonses, one for operating a vessel without an Asharoken Village water ski permit, and one for unsafe boat operation.

Attempts to reach Plackis on Monday were unsuccessful.

Plackis took aboard the passengers of the rowboat, a boy and a girl from Asharoken, after the collision. They were able to retrieve the submerged boat and tow it to shore.

The Northport Fire Department Rescue Squad transported the male in the rowboat to Huntington Hospital for observation, where he was later released. Plackis, his four passengers and two wake boarders were uninjured.

This version of the article corrects Steve Silverman’s title. 

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