Times of Huntington-Northport

Incident shut down part of Main Street on Friday afternoon

Firefighters exit Renarts, where there was a heavy smoke condition on the second floor on Friday afternoon. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The Huntington Fire Department responded to a call of heavy smoke at Renarts that shut down a part of Main Street on Friday afternoon.

An employee of the shoe store near Wall Street called the fire department at about 12:45 p.m. after going upstairs to grab a pair of shoes for a customer and discovering smoke on the second floor. There was a little bit of smoke in the first room and a lot of smoke in the second room, he recalled at the scene on Friday.

“I was coughing a lot,” Paul Rodriguez said. “I couldn’t even stand up for a minute.”

He ran down to place the call to the fire department, which responded in five minutes, he said. The chief got to the scene in less than two minutes.

Rodriguez said fire officials told him there was an “electrical problem” that was being handled.

Chief Robert Berry told reporters at the scene there was no fire, but a “heavy smoke condition” on the second floor. Officials are still investigating what caused the smoke condition but by about 2 p.m., it was safe to go back into the store.

There were no injuries.

A deer tick, above, which can carry one strain of the Powassan virus, is a common type of tick on Long Island, along with the lone star and American dog ticks. Stock photo

As Long Islanders are warned about an uptick in Lyme disease, another tick-borne virus has emerged in Connecticut across the Long Island Sound.

Nearly 12 years ago, Eric Powers, a biologist and wildlife educator, noticed an increase in the tick population at Caleb Smith park in Smithtown, after pulling nearly 40 ticks off a group of his students.

Powers conducted a survey of the park and discovered the population of tick predators had decreased, as feral and outdoor house cats either chased them off or killed them.

“It’s becoming a huge nationwide issue with our wildlife,” Powers said during a phone interview. “Wherever people are letting their cats out, we’re seeing this disruption in ecosystem where these tick predators are gone.”

But what Powers did not find was the prevalence of a tick-borne virus, the Powassan virus, which recently appeared in Bridgeport and Branford in Connecticut.

Between 1971 and 2014, 20 cases of POW virus were reported in New York, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Suffolk County. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the virus has been found in Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Like Lyme disease, the virus can cause long-term neurological problems if left untreated. But Long Island POW virus incidences remain low despite the increase in tick population, according to Daniel Gilrein, an entomologist at Cornell Cooperative Extension.

POW virus, which is related to the West Nile virus, was first identified in Powassan in Ontario, Canada, in 1958 after a young boy was bitten by an infected tick.

Little is known about how much the tick population has exactly increased on Long Island, but Tamson Yeh, pest management and turf specialist for the Cornell Cooperative Extension, said it is unlikely cats are contributing to the increase by eating tick predators like birds.

“Birds will eat ticks, but not all birds are insect eaters,” Yeh said in a phone interview.

She said the snow cover during the winter months served as insulation for the ticks hiding in the ground, which helped them survive during the colder weather.

Richard Kuri, president of R.J.K. Gardens, a St. James-based landscaping company, has not noticed an increase in tick population recently. Regardless, he and his men continue to wear long sleeves and use a variety of sprays to ward off bugs while on the job. Kuri also said people may use more natural remedies to deter ticks.

“There are people who apply peppermint oil and rosemary mix that will help,” Kuri said. “But none of them are cure-alls.”

He added that granular insecticides, like Dylox, help kill a variety of unwanted bugs including ticks carrying viruses like Powassan.

There are two strains of the virus, which are carried by woodchuck and deer ticks. Since only about 60 cases of POW virus were reported in the United States in the past 10 years, Yeh said the chance of encountering POW virus is unlikely since the virus is rare.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, headaches, vomiting, weakness, confusion, drowsiness, lethargy, partial paralysis, disorientation, loss of coordination, speech impairment, seizures, and memory loss. Other complications in infected hosts may possibly arise, such as encephalitis, inflammation of the brain and meningitis.

Powers said he hopes to reduce tick population on Long Island through his quail program. He encourages local teachers, who use chicks or ducklings to educate their students about the circle of life, to raise bobwhite quails. He said releasing these quails annually will not only help them adjust to the presence of cats, but also control the tick population.

Solar shingles shine on the roof of a Long Island home. Photo from Division 7

The idea of installing solar panels to a roof as a source of electricity for a home is not exactly prehistoric.

Reducing the use of electricity or gas to power and heat homes undoubtedly has a positive effect on the environment. Despite being fairly new to the market, solar panels may be supplanted soon by a less expensive, more effective alternative.

Solar shingles have been available in the United States for about five years, according to an estimate by Richard Ciota, a Stony Brook resident who owns Division 7 Inc. Ciota’s 21-year-old roofing company is located in Lake Grove. Its residential division is the only one in the Suffolk County, Nassau County and New York City areas permitted to sell Dow Powerhouse solar shingles.

Solar panels have been available for decades, Ciota said in an interview at Division 7’s main office. They are at this point more efficient in generating electricity than shingles in terms of kilowatts per-square-foot of roof space, though there are problems associated with panels that contribute to the higher cost Ciota said.

“When you’re putting a solar panel onto a roof surface, you’re mounting that solar panel to the rafters through the existing roof,” Ciota said about the older technology, which his company offered prior to the availability of shingles. “So the waterproof technology has got to be perfect because you could be putting 40, 50, 60 penetrations through a perfectly good roof.”

Solar shingles are installed onto the roof of a Long Island residence. Photo from Division 7
Solar shingles are installed onto the roof of a Long Island residence. Photo from Division 7

Wind, shade from trees, excessive heat and animals are other factors that Ciota said are enemies to solar panels, which are installed on top of asphalt shingles and leave wiring exposed to the elements. Wind can cause the panels to pull the asphalt shingles away from the roof, which is an annoying and costly problem to have to fix after panels are installed.

Solar shingles replace asphalt shingles. They are waterproof and work in the same way that any conventional asphalt shingle would along with the added benefit of a reduced electric bill and a more environmentally friendly home than one that runs on electricity or gas heating.

Despite availability and the obvious benefits, solar panels only currently exist on about 5 percent of Long Island homes, according to Ciota. The number of homes with solar shingles is exponentially smaller.

John Petroski, Division 7’s director of solar and residential operations, estimated that the company has done about 70 shingle installations on Long Island since 2012 when Dow partnered with Division 7 Inc. Petroski said they have about 35 booked jobs left to complete, as part of Dow’s pilot program, which offered leasing or purchasing options to consumers.

“The way [Dow] is moving forward with the technology of the shingles, the improvements they’re making — they’re covering their bases,” Petroski said in reference to the notion that unanticipated issues have arisen as solar panels have gotten older, which could also happen to the shingles.

“I personally think the solar shingle will take over the marketplace,” Ciota said about the future as the technology continues to be upgraded. “There are new generations of solar shingles that will be coming out that will increase its efficiency and eventually they’ll probably tie up and meet [the efficiency of panels].”

Other companies sell solar shingles on Long Island, though Dow’s are widely considered to be on the cutting edge. In 2012 Dow received a Breakthrough Award from the magazine Popular Mechanics for pioneering an integrated solar roofing system, according to a press release on Dow’s website.

Note: John Petroski, director of solar and residential operations, is this writer’s brother.

Garland Jeffreys performs at last year’s Huntington Summer Arts Festival. File photo

The Huntington Arts Council’s Summer Arts Festival is turning 50, and the council is celebrating the anniversary in style.

In honor of the milestone, the arts group will be hosting a 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday, June 27 at 6:30 p.m. During the event, Sandy Chapin, the wife of Harry Chapin and current arts in education chairperson, will be presented with the Huntington Arts Council Harry and Sandy Chapin Arts and Humanitarian Award. The celebration will be held during the opening weekend of the annual festival.

Established in 1963 as a non-profit organization, the council has been hosting a summer arts festival concert series, where Huntington Town residents get to enjoy free music performances from various genres across the nation and the world.

“The town values its long-time partnership with the arts council in funding and presenting the summer arts festival, which continues to be the signature event in the town’s cultural calendar,” Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said in a statement.

Award winning musicians, actors, dancers and artists perform at the Chapin Rainbow Stage in Heckscher Park from Tuesday through Sunday for 40 nights, with family nights on Tuesday evenings. Musicals like “West Side Story,” “Shrek,” “Nunsense A-men!” and “Peter Pan” will be on this summer. And bands span genres from traditional Dixieland jazz, contemporary folk and classical orchestra to spoken word rap and more.

As the years have gone by, the festival diversified in terms of performers and types of shows, said John Chicherio, the performing arts director at the council and the program director of the summer arts festival.

“The festival has a great mix of styles and genres.”

The Huntington Men’s Chorus and the Huntington Choral Society will kick off the summer arts festival’s first weekend. The groups have performed each year since the festival began.

Chapin is currently the arts in education chairperson for the council. She has been a staunch advocate of the arts for decades, with a strong commitment to arts education — specifically with the Huntington Arts Council Journey program, which she helped launch. The Journey program, established in 1985, is meant to integrate cultural arts into a classroom curriculum. The program runs in six different school districts, including Huntington, Harborfields and Northport-East Northport. Chapin brought her experience as an elementary school teacher to the Journey program to help make it adaptable in the school districts.

Following the celebration at the Heckscher Museum of Art, members of Chapin’s family will perform a concert at the Chapin Rainbow Stage in Heckscher Park. Proceeds from this support the mission of the Huntington Arts Council, which is to enrich the quality of life for Long Islanders through cultural art and musical programs.

“The summer arts festival is a great way to visit good friends and enjoy a summer evening,” Chapin said. “It’s hard to say what has been my favorite part since it’s such a diverse festival.”

Tracy Watkins photo from SCPD

After searching a Huntington Station home early Thursday morning and allegedly recovering weapons and drugs, police say a father and his two sons kept criminal activity in the family.

The Suffolk County Police Department arrested an alleged gang member, his brother and father on charges of criminal possession following the 6 a.m. search on 11th Avenue. Detectives and officers from various SCPD units, including the Narcotics Section, Criminal Intelligence Bureau, Emergency Service Section, Canine Section and the 2nd Precinct’s Special Operations Team, Gang Unit and Patrol Section jointly executed the search warrant on the residence. Police said they recovered a “loaded and defaced” Tec-9 semiautomatic handgun with a high-capacity magazine and quantities of crack cocaine and marijuana that have a combined street value of about $3,000.

Zachary Watkins Sr. photo from SCPD
Zachary Watkins Sr. photo from SCPD

Police said there were also two other loaded handguns, an imitation pistol, more than 500 rounds of ammunition, a bulletproof vest, digital scales, other drug packaging equipment and $3,700 in cash.

Brothers Tracy Watkins, 42, and Zachary Watkins Jr., 46, were charged with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana and two counts of second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia. Their father, 75-year-old Zachary Watkins Sr., was charged with three counts of criminal possession of a firearm, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana and two counts of second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia.

Attorney information for the father and for Zachary Watkins Jr. was not immediately available. The eldest Watkins has a previous charge pending against him for unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

Zachary Watkins Jr. photo from SCPD
Zachary Watkins Jr. photo from SCPD

Tracy Watkins, who police said was a confirmed member of the South Side Posse gang, has previous charges against him for criminal possession of a controlled substance, for which the New York State court system’s online database lists him as representing himself. It was not immediately clear if he would also be representing himself on the new charges.

The trio was scheduled to be arraigned on Friday.

Police said Huntington Town code enforcement officers issued 32 violations to Zachary Watkins Sr. and are still investigating, to determine if the Huntington Station residence will be declared uninhabitable.

‘Officer Drew’ is there for school students

Drew Fiorillo. File photo by Barbara Donlon
Officer Drew Fiorillo’s job is to help students in need. File photo
Officer Drew Fiorillo’s job is to help students in need. File photo

Suffolk County Police School Resource Officer Andrew Fiorillo has the unique job of patrolling hallways instead of streets in an effort to bridge the gap between youth and law enforcement.

The 14-year veteran has been working as a school resource officer with Huntington and South Huntington school districts for more than 10 years. And while he is a sworn law enforcement officer  “Officer Drew,” as he is called, protects and educates students in need.

“I love to speak to them as a mentor, not a police officer,” Fiorillo said in an interview at the 2nd Precinct headquarters in Huntington.

Prior to becoming a police officer in 2001, Fiorillo, a graduate of Queens College with a bachelor’s degree in teaching, was a New York City firefighter. When he got the call offering him a job as a police officer, he knew it was where he was meant to be, as he wanted to help make a difference.

Fiorillo said walking the hallways helps both he and the students get to know each other better. He spends his days walking and talking and helping students in need. The officer said there are many different challenges he faces on a daily basis, which include speaking with students about issues they may be having, giving presentations to forming relationships and ensuring the school environment remains a place where students feel safe to learn and teachers feel safe to teach. Each day is different, which makes it exciting for him, he said.

“I explain things, show how to correct things, obtain information and deliver it in a non-confrontational way,” Fiorillo said.

The officer spends his days in the schools and sometimes goes into classrooms and delivers presentations to the students. One of the presentations he gives is the zero-tolerance law for drinking alcohol under the age of 21. He helps students understand that they cannot operate a motor vehicle with any blood alcohol content if they are under 21.

Fiorillo said he lives by the motto, “no problems, only solutions,” and that is what he tells students when they are in need of advice or any kind of help. He also teaches students that character counts and to do the right thing when no one is watching.

Huntington Superintendent Jim Polansky spoke highly of the officer and said he has proven himself to be a resource for everyone around him.

Drew Fiorillo. File photo by Barbara Donlon
Drew Fiorillo. File photo by Barbara Donlon

“They know he is there for them and will go out of his way to help them,” Polansky said in an interview. “I can’t see anyone doing a better job than him.”

Many can attest to Fiorillo’s passion for helping students. Those who encounter him each day say he goes above and beyond his daily duties and is not only spotted in the schools, but also at community events.

Huntington High School Principal Carmela Leonardi said Fiorillo is very approachable and that students “flock to him.” She also said he has been a partner to the administration and helped create a great environment.

“The ultimate goal is to provide a safe learning environment where kids can learn and teachers can teach,” Fiorillo said.

The officer said he is very thankful and lucky to get the opportunity to work with the students, teachers and administrators, and he hopes to continue the path for a very long time.

“We have an opportunity as police officers to have a positive influence in young people’s lives, which will hopefully help them become better in life,” Fiorillo said.

1-800-Checks
An Oakland Avenue florist in Port Jefferson Station reported on June 20 that a box of business checks had been stolen from their office.

Ripped from the headlines
Between June 17 at 10 p.m. and 10:30 a.m. on June 18, a person rummaged through a 1999 Pontiac on Piedmont Drive in Port Jefferson Station and damaged the vehicle headliner.

Chest bump
Police responded to a road rage incident on Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station on June 17 at about 11:20 a.m. According to police, a woman reported that a man’s car bumped mirrors with her own vehicle and he began cursing at her. The woman also said the man bumped her with his chest after the two exited their vehicles.

Taking advantage
Between June 18 and 19, two Port Jefferson vehicles on Vantage Court were robbed. At some point between 6 p.m. on June 18 and 6 p.m. on June 19, someone stole a laptop, prescription glasses, headphones, a car charger and an iPad charger from a 2010 Ford. On June 19 between midnight and 9 a.m., someone stole a wallet with cash from inside a 2015 Subaru.

Impatient
A St. Charles Hospital employee reported that a patient at the Port Jefferson hospital had slapped her on June 18.

The gravity of the situation
A 22-year-old Port Jefferson Station man was arrested at the local Long Island Rail Road station on June 19 for fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Police said they were notified about a man with a knife and found a gravity knife in the man’s pocket.

Holey moly
Things were busy on Oakland Avenue in Miller Place last week, as police reported two separate incidents. On June 18, a resident reported that someone had made a small hole in their home’s front window and vinyl siding on June 18. Two days later, a person stole a GPS, a Blackberry and a bag from an unlocked 2007 Toyota.

Street smarts
Someone took a wallet containing cash and credit cards from a vehicle parked at Centereach High School on June 17.

Gassed up
A woman struck a man in the head and face at a Selden gas station on Middle Country Road on June 21 shortly after 4 p.m.

Buzzed
A man reported being assaulted by three males and one female at The Hive on Middle Country Road in Selden on June 17 at around 2:40 a.m. According to police, the man suffered from lacerations to his head and face and had a broken tooth. He was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment. No arrests have been made.

Suspended
A 24-year-old Selden man was arrested for third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle on June 20. According to police, the man was driving a 2008 Cadillac south on Dare Road in Selden when he was pulled over and police discovered his license had been suspended or revoked.

Found with drugs
Police arrested a 25-year-old Dix Hills man and charged him with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana. Police said the man was found with substances inside a 2002 Honda Civic at the corner of Straight Path and Burrs Lane in Dix Hills on June 19 at about 6:50 p.m.

Punched out
A 36-year-old Huntington Station man was arrested in Huntington on June 18 and charged with third-degree assault, with intent to cause physical injury. Police said on May 9 at about 12:10 a.m. he assaulted another man, punching him until he fell to the ground on New York Avenue. He continued to punch the person, who required treatment at Huntington Hospital. He was arrested at 6:09 p.m.

Parking lot DWI
A 77-year-old woman from East Northport was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 of 1 percent. Police said the woman struck another parked vehicle in a parking lot on Larkfield Road in East Northport on June 19 at 1:45 p.m. She was arrested at the scene.

Crash ‘n dash
Police arrested a 47-year-old woman from Centerport and charged her with leaving the scene of an accident where there was property damage. Police said the woman crashed a 2011 Toyota into a telephone pole in front of a home on Washington Avenue in Centerport on June 20 at 6:20 p.m., damaging the pole. She was arrested at the precinct at 1 p.m. on June 22.

Car keyed
A 2009 Honda Accord parked on Ridgecrest Street in Huntington was keyed sometime between 9:30 and 11 p.m. on June 22. There are no arrests.

Boat burglarized
Someone stole power tools out of a 2002 Catalina boat at Coneys Marina on New York Avenue in Huntington. The incident occurred sometime between 3:30 p.m. on June 21 and 10:30 a.m. on June 22.

Quad missing
A 2006 Suzuki quad was stolen from the yard of an Alsace Place home in East Northport on June 21 at 1 a.m. There are no arrests.

Jewelry stolen
Someone stole a bracelet from a home on Altessa Boulevard in Melville sometime between noon on May 23 and noon on June 13.

Punch it up
Police arrested a 21-year-old man from Deer Park at the 4th Precinct and charged him with third-degree assault with intent to cause physical injury. Police said the man punched somebody in the face several times on June 7 at 6 :05 p.m. on Portion Road in Ronkonkoma. He was arrested on June 19 at 9:54 a.m.

On a roll
A 44-year-old Nesconset woman was arrested at the 4th Precinct and charged with criminal mischief with intent to damage property. Police said she punctured the two rear passenger-side tires of a 2014 Kia Soul. She was arrested at about 7 p.m. on June 19, and police said the crime happened on Adrienne Lane in Hauppauge.

Phone jacking thwarted
Police arrested a 28-year-old Hauppauge man on June 19 and charged him with petit larceny. Police said he stole a cell phone from a Walmart on Veterans Memorial Highway in Islandia at 9:35 p.m. on June 7.

Rifle-happy
A 61-year-old Lake Ronkonkoma man was arrested at the 4th Precinct on June 18 at 8:30 a.m. and charged with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, possessing three or more firearms. Police said that the man possessed four semiautomatic rifles at his home on Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m.

What a tool
Someone stole tools from an unlocked shed in the driveway of a Ridge Road home in Smithtown, sometime between June 20 and June 21. The tools included a saw, compressor, chain saw and floor jack.

Cards swiped
Someone entered an unlocked 2015 Grand Cherokee in the driveway of a home on Poplar Drive in Smithtown and removed several different credit and debit cards. The incident occurred between June 16 at 1 a.m. and June 17 at 3:20 p.m.

Door damaged
An unknown person shattered a storm door by unknown means at a Nesconset home on Marion Street sometime between June 17 and June 20. There are no arrests.

Window woes
Someone stole a 2012 Jeep plastic rear window from Smith Haven Jeep on Route 25 in Nesconset. The incident occurred between June 16 and June 18.

Hateful graffiti
Someone reported graffiti of a swastika on the boys’ bathroom wall at Kings Park High School on June 19 at 8:45 a.m. There are no arrests.

Pesky kids
A man told police an unknown object was thrown at his vehicle while he was driving a 2001 Ford Explorer southbound on Ashland Drive in Kings Park. The object damaged the door window. Police said it’s possible youth were involved. The incident occurred at 10:55 p.m. on June 18.

License-less
Suffolk County Police arrested a 20-year-old man from Central Islip in Stony Brook on June 19 and charged him with third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Police said the man was driving a 1994 Honda westbound on Nesconset Highway with a suspended or revoked license. He was arrested at 11:30 p.m. at the scene

Snatched on the down Loews
Someone took a camera bag containing a camera, a Nintendo gaming system, games and a backpack from a 2007 Hummer parked at AMC Loews Stony Brook 17. The incident happened on June 17 between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Gadgets gone
Someone broke the passenger window of a Toyota pickup truck parked in a Nesconset Highway parking lot in Stony Brook and took a backpack, iPad mini, a GoPro camera and accessories. The incident occurred sometime between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on June 17.

Phoning it in
Police said a man concealed merchandise in his pocket and walked out of Walmart on Nesconset Highway in East Setauket with a charger and a cellphone screen protector on June 19 at about 5:10 p.m.

I see stolen underpants
A woman stole undergarments after entering a fitting room at Kohl’s on Nesconset Highway in East Setauket on June 18 at about 2:20 p.m. There are no arrests.

Tim Mattiace, second from right, with Deren family members, is all smiles after receiving the Ray Deren memorial scholarship. Photo from Huntington athletics

Ray Deren’s name in Blue Devil athletic history is etched in stone. The legendary sports administrator’s creativity and foresight helped ignite an explosion in the number of opportunities available to Huntington’s student-athletes, and his planning and commitment to the athletes of the community continues to benefit countless Blue Devils each year.

Tim Mattiace plays lacrosse in his Blue Devils uniform this past season. Photo by Darin Reed
Tim Mattiace plays lacrosse in his Blue Devils uniform this past season. Photo by Darin Reed

A trendsetter in the area of sports program innovation, Deren played a leading role in a long list of initiatives that have become an essential part of the district’s cherished traditions.

Although he died more than 15 years ago, Deren’s influence is still widely felt in Huntington’s classrooms and gyms and on its fields.

At this year’s 47th Blue Devils senior athletic awards banquet, which Deren created in 1969 to recognize and honor seniors who have participated in athletics, Binghamton University-bound Tim Mattiace was presented with a $1,000 scholarship and handsome plaque in honor of the longtime district athletic director.

“My dad believed that students who participated in athletics would have the most success in their careers and relationships,” Deren’s daughter, Georgia McCarthy, who now fills the same position her father once did, said. She was joined for the award presentation by her sons, John and Kenny.

The Deren scholarship recognizes athletes who have consistently showed dedication to their academic and athletic programs and are determined to complete a college education while participating in athletes.

Mattiace is headed to Binghamton University on a scholarship to play lacrosse. One of the top members academically of the class of 2015, the student-athlete has been a mainstay of the Blue Devils program for many years. He tallied seven goals and 11 assists and was a member of the team’s strong defense this spring, scooping up dozens of ground balls.

“It’s a true honor coming from Kenny, John and Mrs. McCarthy, to receive this award and everything it stands for,” Mattiace said. “Mr. Deren was an amazing man and I can only hope to accomplish as much as he did some day.”

Mattiace captained the Blue Devils’ football and lacrosse teams, winning post-season recognition in both sports. He was a First Team All-Division player on the gridiron last fall and All-Division and All-County in lacrosse this spring.

Ray Deren, Huntington’s athletic director for two decades. Photo from Huntington athletics
Ray Deren, Huntington’s athletic director for two decades. Photo from Huntington athletics

The athlete was named Suffolk County League III’s Defensive Player of the Year for his outstanding play as a long stick midfielder, and he earned a spot on the Brine All-American team that won the national championship and went on to beat Canada for the Brogden Cup.

The Huntington Lacrosse Alumni Association presented Mattiace with a large plaque earlier this spring for being a “player who exemplifies the spirit and tradition of Huntington High School lacrosse.”

“I will be working as a junior manager at Lacrosse Unlimited of Huntington; playing in the Shootouts for Soldiers tournament, the Cantiague men’s lacrosse league with kids from around the Island and the Greenport lacrosse tournament; doing plenty of fishing; and working out to prepare for Binghamton University men’s lacrosse,” Mattiace about his summer plan.

During Deren’s tenure, the number of athletic teams sponsored by the district skyrocketed from 28 to 70 and the program was seen as a model by districts across New York. A true visionary, he identified the need for a full-time athletic trainer — a first for a Long Island high school — writing the job description for the position.

Throughout his tenure, he pushed for improvements to the district’s athletic programs and sports facilities.

Deren passed away on Feb. 28, 1999, but his memory lives on through the memorial scholarship presented annually in his honor by his family.

“Our student-athletes are obligated to work well with others on a daily basis in some of the most unique situations,” McCarthy told the crowd at the senior banquet. “You all have a strong work ethic, can problem solve, be unselfish and manage your time wisely because of your experiences in Huntington. These are just a few of the skills that are second nature and will help you live happy and successful lives. This banquet is all about you, who have put so much time and energy into this strong program, rich with traditions.”

Morizsan to be sentenced to 25 years

Suffolk County Police Officer Nicholas Guerrero is released from Stony Brook University Hospital and transported to a rehab center. File photo by Barbara Donlon

A Northport man pleaded guilty to assault and other charges after striking two Suffolk County police officers and critically injuring one of them before fleeing the scene in a stolen car last September.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said that Chad Morizsan waived his right to appeal and will be sentenced to 25 years in state prison. He pleaded guilty to charges of assault, assault on a police officer, leaving the scene of an accident, grand larceny and more, according to a statement from Bob Clifford, spokesman for Spota.

Chad Morizsan. Photo from SCPD
Chad Morizsan. Photo from SCPD

Daniel Guttmann, who is listed in online court records as Morizsan’s attorney, didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment on Wednesday.

Morizsan was arrested in September of last year for running down two Suffolk County police officers following a traffic stop in Huntington. After speeding off, Morizsan stole gas, collided with another vehicle at the gas station and carjacked a 2005 Toyota Camry from an 87-year-old woman.

Nicholas Franzone, also a Northport resident, accompanied Morizsan in the car and is scheduled to appear in court before State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho on July 14.

Officers Nicholas Guerrero and Heriberto Lugo attempted to pull over Morizsan and Franzone on September 22 for traveling in a stolen Ford Explorer in Huntington on Partridge Lane. Morizsan sped off, striking both police officers as they approached the vehicle, critically injuring Guerrero.

Guerrero was hospitalized with a severe head injury at Stony Brook University Hospital for more than three weeks. He was monitored in the neurosurgical intensive care unit. He has been with the police department for four years. Lugo, his partner, was treated and released.

Police arrested Morizsan and Franzone at a department store in Central Islip several hours after the hit and run, where the pair attempted to purchase a television with a stolen credit card belonging to the woman whose car they had hijacked.

Morizsan was held at the time on bail of $3 million cash or a $30 million bond; Franzone was held on bail of $150,000 cash or $450,000 bond.

Morizsan was charged with third-degree grand larceny for allegedly stealing the Ford Explorer from the Commack area, petit larceny for stealing the gas, leaving the scene of incident involving property damage and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. On top of that, Morizsan was also arrested on three open warrants for violation of probation and petit larceny.

Franzone was charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle for his alleged role in the carjacking incident, police said.

Ian Fitzgerald, of Central Islip, said Franzone had nothing to do with the hit-and-run.

“He was in the back seat of the car. He had nothing to do with Mr. Morizsan fleeing and injuring the officer … he had no control over the vehicle,” Fitzgerald had said in an interview last year.

 

Group files petition, board size reduction up for vote next year

Armand D’Accordo, a member of the United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport who presented the petition, speaks at a meeting last week. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Next year, Northport-East Northport school district voters will weigh in on whether to downsize its school board from nine trustees to seven.

On Monday, June 15, the United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport presented a petition at a school board meeting with nearly 300 signatures in support of the reduction. Beth Nystrom, the district clerk of the Northport-East Northport school district, confirmed in a phone interview that the petition is legitimate and a proposition to downsize the board should be up for a vote in next year’s election.

Armand D’Accordo, a member of the United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport who presented the petition, said he’s seen a number of issues with the current size of the nine-member board and the length of time board members are in office.

“I have gotten the sense at board meetings, both through watching and interacting, that it seems a bit dysfunctional, due to the makeup of how many members and how long they’ve been around,” D’Accordo said.

Nine members is the largest number permitted on a school board, and three the fewest, according to New York State education law.

“If such a petition is brought forward to the district it will be included in the annual budget vote and decided by the community,” board President Julia Binger said in a statement.

D’Accordo said the group got interested in pursuing this issue after Nina Dorata’s research in “School District Boards, Audit Committees, and Budget Oversight: Seeking a Formula for Good Governance,” published in the March 2013 issue of the CPA Journal, exposed the correlation between school district budget increases and tenure of board members.

In the article, Dorata surveyed Long Island school districts, and 83 percent responded that the average number of members on a school board is approximately six, with the average tenure of five and a half years.

In Northport-East Northport, with the exception of outgoing Trustee Stephen Waldenburg, Jr., who has served for 15 years on the board, all other members each tout tenures of five years or fewer.

The members of the United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport believe that “statistical and anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that school districts operate in a more effective and efficient manner when the composition of the board is limited to no more than seven board members.”

Dorata is a member of the United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport and a previous member of the school board’s audit committee, along with D’Accordo. She is a professor at St. Johns University, as well as the assistant chairperson of the school’s department of accounting and taxation.

She discovered in her data that “the bigger the board, the bigger the budget,” and that “after years of reading corporate literature, I found that the entrenchment theory was due to longevity.”

Objectivity becomes lost with board members who have been on the board for many years, Dorata said.

But that’s not a view with which some school board members agree. Waldenburg said he believes the opposite —  the longer a board member stays on the board, the better the budget is. He said the knowledge he has gained over the years is more beneficial to the community. In his 15 years, the budget is much better now then when he started, he said.

“I don’t know why it’s necessary, I think that there is a good symmetry on the board with nine members, there is an even amount up for re-election every year,” he said.

Waldenburg also believes that a smaller board would be less representational, and that with a larger board, there’s room for more diversity in opinions. “It always leads to a better decision.”

Recently re-elected Trustee David Badanes echoed those sentiments. Badanes is currently not in favor of a reduction to the size of the board, “the statistics are speculative and so far the arguments do not convince me,” he said in a statement.

“We have a large and diverse community, with a lot of different areas to represent. The more people that participate gives you more eyes for each issue,” he said.

If the school board fails to give notice at the annual board meeting that a proposition vote on this matter will take place, then the notice will be given by Mary Ellen Elia, the education commissioner of New York.

D’Accordo believes that the public will be in favor of the reduction.

“I do feel confident, in the public there is a general sense I have been getting while collecting signatures for this petition that the public wants a smaller school board.”

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