Times of Huntington-Northport

'Finis Incertus' by Chase McGill

By Melissa Arnold

An eerie chill is beginning to settle over Long Island, and with it comes the creepy sort of magic that only Halloween can bring. Whether you’re in it for the candy or the costumes, celebrating All Hallows Eve encourages young and old alike to get creative and maybe even spooky.

To celebrate the season, the Huntington Arts Council is sponsoring its 7th annual Nightmare on Main Street at the Main Street Gallery, a juried student art show showcasing some of our area’s most talented young artists.

The exhibit allows students in grades 6 through 12 to submit their favorite Halloween-themed artwork for consideration. In total, 41 artists from Nassau and Suffolk counties were chosen, and more than 85 spooky pieces in varied mediums will be on display. 

‘Complement Me’ by Anna Laimo

This year’s juror, Jessica “Ratgrrl” Valentin, is primarily a digital and collage artist. Her “heartbreaking pop” style has graced galleries throughout Long Island and New York City. Her latest project, Muñeca Arthouse, is a unique gallery space in Patchogue.

Valentin also played a part in shaping the theme for this year’s exhibit. “I love spooky, but not horror,” she said. “I blend my work with spooky themes, color, and sweetness so I can deal with the things that scare me. How do you face the things that scare you?” she asked, setting the tone for the entries.

Anna Laimo, a senior at Half Hollow Hills High School East, was overjoyed to be chosen for this year’s Nightmare on Main Street, an exhibit she said is a perfect fit for her.

“My dad is a horror novelist, and I grew up watching scary movies with him. I love everything about the horror industry,” said the 17-year-old. “I submitted a few pieces for the exhibit last year but I wasn’t chosen, so it feels great to know I’ve improved this year.”

Laimo’s submissions include “Complement Me,” an acrylic and oil painting of skeletons on a date, and “Swell,” a drawing based on another interest of hers — special effects makeup.

North Babylon High School senior Zoe Hartmann is also making her debut at the exhibit this year thanks to an art class assignment. “My teacher had all of us do a Halloween-themed piece to submit. I was really surprised and excited when I found out I was picked. This is my first juried exhibit,” said Hartmann, 17.

Her contribution, a colored pencil drawing called “Rise of the Dead,” depicts a female skeleton alone in a cemetery. Hartmann said that she was inspired by the 2017 Disney-Pixar film, “Coco,” and the idea that, eventually, the dead are forgotten.

Along with Laimo and Hartmann, the works of Olivia Belluomo, Brooke Blumberg, Sage Boiko, Grace Burkart, Giavanna Castro, Ziqian Chen, Maxwell DeFalco, Alysse Fazal, Gloria Gang, Rachel Taylor Goldsmith, Elizabeth Gordin, Jenna Hart, Morgan Hlaing, Jiayi Huo, Evelyn Johnson, Aya Karimealaoui, Evgenia Kennedy, Siyu Lei, Juliette Liberatoscioli, Angelina Lomangino, Jessica Lyle, Sara Madsen, Chase McGill, Madalyn Metzger, Frida Misko, Benjamin Pollard, Sophia Polizzi, Dylan Roca, Matthew Rubenfeld, Jessica Rush, Mehr Sharma, Martina Simone, Juliah Triana, Leia Ulrich, Anna Vig, Emily Villavicencio,  Isabelle Waldorf, Hephzibah Yoo and Ida Zuo will also be on view.”

Prizes were awarded in two categories: grades 6 to 8 and 9 to 12. In the junior division, Best in Show went to Frida Misko for “Spooky But Sweet” with Angelina Lomangino receiving an Honorable Mention for “Wick.” In the senior division, Sage Boiko won Best in Show for “Werewolf of Wysteria” while Honorable Mentions were awarded to Anna Laimo’s “Complement Me” and Siyu Lei’ “This Red or This One.”

“I was honored and excited to be chosen as a juror,” said Valentin. “It was surprising; the layered complexity and the technical skill of these young artists. I love the places that they took the theme. It was hard. There was lots of good work to choose from.”

“Nightmare on Main Street continues to receive an incredible response from the student artists who enter the show as well as the surrounding community,” said Huntington Arts Council Executive Director Marc Courtade. “The artwork featured in this exhibit reflects an incredible level of talent.We are always thrilled to see the work of young adults in our gallery.”

Nightmare on Main Street will be on display through Nov. 3 at the Main Street Gallery, 213 Main St., Huntington. A costume reception will be held on Oct. 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the gallery, where prizes will be awarded to select artists and for best costume. All are welcome. Refreshments will be served. For information, call 631-271-8423 or visit www.huntingtonarts.org.

 

Jeremy Williams. Photo from Williams

At 22 years old, Republican candidate for New York State’s 10th Assembly District Jeremy Williams said he sees things from the millennial generation’s perspective, especially the issue of young people finding jobs and housing to stay on Long Island.

“I saw a lot of my friends move out of state,” Williams said. “They went down to the Carolinas, to Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and when you ask them why — it’s not that they don’t like New York, or they don’t like their family — it’s a simple matter of there’s better jobs.”

Williams grew up in Huntington Station, his family longtime town residents, and now he currently lives just a block away from the house his great-great-grandparents built. He went through the South Huntington school district and graduated from Walt Whitman High School in 2014. After that he worked part time jobs before attending Stony Brook University and transferring to Binghamton University. While finishing his English rhetoric degree, Williams joined up with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter where he became the organization’s treasurer.

They went down to the Carolinas, to Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and when you ask them why — it’s not that they don’t like New York, or they don’t like their family — it’s a simple matter of there’s better jobs.”

— Jeremy Williams

After returning home from college, Williams got a job in New York City working as a public relations representative for financial technology, cryptocurrency and blockchain companies. One thing he quickly realized from working in the city while living in Huntington was just how hard it was to save money and find a house to live on his own.

“When you’re not saving for the first down payment on your house, when you’re just worried about being able to fill up your car, it’s kind of an unworkable situation,” Williams said. “It’s very expensive to buy a first home, and there are a lot of barriers to first home ownership on Long Island.”

Williams said he has long been interested in politics, and in his adult life he has become involved in local Republican Party politics. He said he has worked on campaigns for several Suffolk County Legislature and state Assembly races. Now he is challenging Assemblyman Steve Stern’s (D-Dix Hills) seat. Stern won the seat in a special election earlier this year after it was vacated by now Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R).

The young candidate said the problems that his district, and by extension all of Long Island, faces are a combination of high tax rates, “outrageous” county fees, an unfriendly business climate and environmental issues, especially those in coastal waters.

Williams blamed the state of Suffolk County’s current finances on excessive spending and that county officials have been upping fees to make up for excessive spending. He specifically pointed to fees for filing mortgage tax ID maps and the red light camera program, which he argued has not been doing the job of making intersections safer.

“With every $3 we send to the state, we get $1 back,” Williams said. “It’s not an act of the universe that it’s becoming more unaffordable for people to live here. It’s regulation and legislation.”

On the environment, he said current issues with nitrogen pollution and recent algal blooms in Huntington and Northport harbors have him worried for the future of local waters.

It’s not an act of the universe that it’s becoming more unaffordable for people to live here. It’s regulation and legislation.”

— Jeremy Williams

“We have really beautiful waterways, and the sheer life in the harbors is staggering,” he said. “Waste leakage dumping is killing our [shellfish and other marine life] en masse.”

While he said he would support harsher punishments for anybody found dumping waste, and for increased funding for household nitrogen filtering technology, he said he is hesitant to support sewer projects if that means more overdevelopment. He said he vehemently opposed the recent Villadom mall project, which once planned to build a large-scale mall complex in Elwood but has since been stalled by local opposition. He said he fears such developments could drastically impact local water, especially that from the Greenlawn Water District.

Williams said he is very concerned about the legal battle between Long Island Power Authority and the Town of Huntington. The town is currently in the midst of ongoing litigation with LIPA over the property tax assessment of Northport Power Station, as the utility claims it has been overtaxed. LIPA is seeking a massive reduction of its property taxes, which could lead to lost revenue for the town and expose it to back taxes should the battle go LIPA’s way. Recent judicial rulings have allowed LIPA to go ahead and take the town to court over these assessments.

“We have to be prepared for the worst,” he said. “We need to have legislation that provides 15 years of relief so that it won’t come down on the taxpayers.”

Sunny skies were the perfect backdrop for Northport High School’s 2018 homecoming celebration held on Oct. 20 in the Tigers newly redone stadium.

Northport varsity football team took on the Centereach Cougars in a match that saw the visiting team take an early lead. Tenacity and skill won out, as the Tigers won with a final score of 35-6. 

The halftime show featured the marching band, Tigerettes and Flagline who performed a variety of popular songs for the crowd. Seniors Trevor Koulemos and Pegeen Friese were crowned homecoming king and queen at the dance. 

Earlier in the day, Northport-East Northport school district held its annual  Hall of Fame induction in the auditorium. This year’s inductees included: Max Bartig, Class of 2006; Andrew D’Eloia, Class of 1991; Corinne Gandolfi, Class of 2006; Bryan Quinn, Class of 2003; Jaenine Michealsen, Class of 1986; the 2002 state championship girls varsity volleyball team and the Northport Tiger Marching Band, Flagline and Tigerettes.

The Town of Huntington's municipal parking lot between New and Green streets. File Photo by Rohma Abbas

Town of Huntington officials voted to take the next step forward in pursuing construction of a parking garage in Huntington village Oct. 23. Yet, both elected officials and business owners remain divided over whether it is the best solution to a decades-old problem in this modern era.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) led the town’s Local Development Corporation in approving the release of up to $16,000 to investigate the feasibility of constructing a parking structure in Huntington village over the existing municipal lot between New and Green streets by a 4-1 vote.

“We want to continue trying to explore and see what our options are with that area to see if the ground is physically sound to build something,” Lupinacci said. “We don’t want to lose any grant money that may be available to us.”

We want to continue trying to explore and see what our options are with that area to see if the ground is physically sound to build something.”

—Chad Lupinacci

The $16,000 in funds will be used to conduct soil borings, a topographic survey of the area, prepare utility mark-outs and other necessary preliminary steps needed prior to start of construction, according to Lupinacci.

In December 2017, the town had been awarded a $1.7 million grant from the state’s Regional Economic Council for construction of a facility to ease the village’s long-term parking woes.

The town had previously contracted with Level G Associates of Bethpage who completed a report in May 2017 that determined it was both physically and economically feasible for the town to construct a 528-space parking deck. To date, the town does not have any conceptual plans for a garage, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo.

That may be due in part to the divide between elected officials, local business owners and Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce on whether constructing a new facility is the best solution.

Councilman Eugene Cook (I) was the sole vote against further studies for a proposed parking garage between New and Green streets Tuesday night.

Why spend $16,000 if we may not need it,? There are stages that we need to go through to do it properly, and I think we are rushing it with this stage.”

— Eugene Cook

“Why spend $16,000 if we may not need it,” he said. “There are stages that we need to go through to do it properly, and I think we are rushing it with this stage.”

Cook said there are new town employees in the town’s Public Safety Department who are researching the cause of parking issues plaguing the town and expressed some “good ideas.” The councilman cited advances in technology, such as the future possibility of automated cars, could change both transportation and resulting parking needs of the area.

Brian Yudewitz, chairman of Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber holds a similar position that alternative solutions to a parking garage and modern technologies need to be more closely considered after getting feedback from its members. He said the town’s last parking study was done before the prolific use of ride services like Lift, Uber and the new Qwik Ride shuttles.

“The word we’re getting from a lot of merchants in town is those things are being used quite a bit,” Yudewitz said. “Another thing we do suggest is the re-evaluation of the structure of the municipal lots and paid parking structure as it stands to see if there’s a better way to get people in and out.”

The town implemented metered street-side parking in Huntington village in April 2014 and renewed its contract with Devo & Associates for the parking pay system Tuesday night for another three years through September 2021. Yet, the system has its critics.

I would be so in favor of them building even a two-story parking garage.” 

— Gabriel Garcia

“It’s upsetting for many people,” Gabriel Garcia, manager of Bistro Cassis said. “I understand why they do it, but you can’t expect people to park for only three hours if they want to spend a whole night out on the town.”

Garcia said available parking spaces in Huntington village remains his biggest concern, given patrons regularly express their frustrations to him and state they won’t visit the restaurant on weekends due to a lack of available slots.

“I would be so in favor of them building even a two-story parking garage,” he said.

He estimated only 30 percent of his restaurant’s clientele would be willing to consider using ride services such as Uber or the Qwik Ride shuttles, as they don’t rely on other sources for transportation.

Across town, Honu Kitchen & Cocktails owner Mark Zecher said he frequently sees customers utilizing Qwik Ride shuttles, since it started operating in August, and public transportation playing a positive role in addressing the area’s parking issues.

I always tell people, ‘If we didn’t’ have a parking problem, we’d all have a problem.'”

— Mark Zecher

“More and more people are using Uber, and it not only has to do with the parking situation but the drinking and driving laws,” Zecher said. “People are becoming much more conscious and responsible.”

Zecher said there is an ever-present need for more parking by the village’s businesses.

“I always tell people, ‘If we didn’t’ have a parking problem, we’d all have a problem,’” he said.

Despite his business being close to the proposed site of the parking garage, Zecher said he was unsure if more municipal lots or a new facility was the best solution for parking woes given potential costs or the possible impact of neighboring businesses during construction.

“At the end of the day, more parking spots would be good but how we get there and how it affects businesses along the way is a question I can’t answer,” Zecher said.

Brookhaven’s single-stream recycling facility in Yaphank is going to need a new contractor to operate the facility. File photo by Clayton Collier

By Alex Petroski & Sara-Megan Walsh

Recyclable materials have been building up at the Brookhaven Town recycling plant in Yaphank ever since China stopped accepting imports from American facilities in January, but the future of the facility is even more up in the air now.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said contractor Green Stream Recycling terminated its 25-year contract to operate the Yaphank facility effective Oct. 29 citing financial woes due to market changes. The company signed the agreement with the town in 2013.

“We’re a regional facility — for them to do that it certainly isn’t going to speak well of the future of their waste management business on Long Island,” Romaine said.

The town plans to pursue legal action against the contractor for breach of contract, according to the supervisor.

Green Stream Recycling, owned by principals Joe Winters and Anthony Core, also of Hudson Baylor Brookhaven LLC, did not return a phone call requesting comment.

An aerial view of Town of Brookhaven’s Green Stream Recycling plant in Yaphank is surrounded by recyclables in August. Photo from Town of Smithtown

Romaine said the town will be putting the contract out for an emergency bid Nov. 1 for a new facility operator, and the town board will select a replacement at a Nov. 2 special meeting.

“They had three years of very good profits, and then as you know more recently there have been changes obviously in the recycling market where most of our recycling goods went,” Romaine said. 

The terms of contract with Green Stream Recycling yielded $20 per ton of processed recyclables, a quarter of which went back to Brookhaven with the remaining 75 percent
redistributed to neighboring municipalities that had agreements with Brookhaven to send their recyclables to the Yaphank facility, Romaine said. The supervisor said the town hadn’t received any money from Green Stream since May, though Brookhaven has continued making payments to other municipalities.

“The Town of Brookhaven believes very strongly in the benefits that a municipal recycling program brings to our respective communities and hence the reason we continued acceptance and payment for the material received from the Town of Huntington,” Romaine wrote in an Oct. 23 letter to Huntington Supervisor Chad
Lupinacci (R).

Similar letters were also sent to Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) and the other municipalities that have single-stream recycling agreements with Brookhaven.

John Clark, director of Environmental Waste Management for the Town of Huntington, said the town was previously informed Aug. 23 Brookhaven would not renew the intermunicipal agreement to accept Huntington’s collected recyclables set to expire at the end of this year. Under the terms of the agreement, Huntington received up to $15 per ton of recyclable material delivered to the Yaphank facility.

In 2017, Huntington collected and delivered more than 14,000 tons of material to the single-stream recycling plant that was processed through the intermunicipal agreement. This resulted in more than $152,000 in net revenue, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo.

The town had already issued a request for proposals Oct. 18 in an attempt to find an alternative solution to start Jan. 1, 2019, which may include converting back to dual-stream recycling where residents may be held responsible for sorting their trash again.

The news of Green Stream Recycling ending its contract with Brookhaven will pose only a temporary issue for Huntington, Lembo noted.

“The Town of Brookhaven believes very strongly in the benefits that a municipal recycling program brings to our respective communities and hence the reason we continued acceptance and payment for the material received from the Town of Huntington.”

— Ed Romaine

“We are already in the process of reaching out to potential recycling vendors and other municipalities to execute a two-month agreement that would get us through the end of the year under our single-stream recycling mode,” Lembo said.

Russ Barnett, Smithtown’s environmental protection director, said the town had received a telephone call from Brookhaven Oct. 19 to immediately cease sending recyclables to Brookhaven’s Yaphank facility. Smithtown’s town board plans to issue an emergency request for proposals at its Oct. 25 meeting seeking a new contractor to cart and process its residents’ recyclables, according to spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. It’s unclear what if any impact this may have on Smithtown’s tentative 2019 budget.

“Residents should continue doing what they are doing right now,” Barnett said. “We’re not asking residents to make any changes.”

Smithtown Town plans to temporarily store all collected materials at its Municipal Services Facility on Old Northport Road in Kings Park until a new carter is found. A new recyclable operator could mean a move back to dual-stream recycling.

“We’ve got a broad solicitation out there to identify what our options might be,” Barnett said. “Whether we will be offered services as an unsorted single-stream recyclables for sorting and purification elsewhere, or whether or not people might propose that prior sorting [by residents] needs to be done.”

A spokesperson for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said in a statement the agency is working with Brookhaven and the other towns impacted to develop solutions that will allow for processing of existing materials at the site and long-term solutions to continue recycling in the region, as well as working with industry stakeholders to solve the problem of drying up markets for the recycled material.

School gymnasiums, like at Rocky Point High School above, and cafeterias have long been used as polling places for elections, but citing safety concerns, district superintendents are calling for the end of that practice. File photo

On Nov. 6, voters will be lining up across Suffolk County at polling places, though if some school officials in the county could have it their way, by Election Day 2019 votes will be cast elsewhere.

Despite the fact schools are used as polling places near-universally, recent pushes for additional school security from communities have made several North Shore superintendents question why they should be forced to allow strangers into their buildings.

“You have to admit anybody onto school campus who comes to vote, so those actions and best practices for security that we observe every day, we can’t observe on Election Day,” said Elwood school district Superintendent Kenneth Bossert. “Schools are allowed to make their own rules for every school day, but on Election Day we have to defer to the [Suffolk County] Board of Elections, and in effect our facilities become their facilities.”

“Schools are allowed to make their own rules for every school day, but on Election Day we have to defer to the [Suffolk County] Board of Elections, and in effect our facilities become their facilities.”

— Kenneth Bossert

The Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, of which Bossert is president, released a blueprint for action to enhance school safety in which it specifically requests legislation that might let schools appeal their designation as polling locations. New York State law says all public buildings are in line to be declared polling places, yet all municipalities except schools have the right to appeal that designation.

Board of Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota said approximately 30 percent of polling in the county was held at nonschool municipal buildings. He added if the Board of Elections tried to move its voting apparatus to other places like fire departments or town halls that parking would be inadequate and wait times would increase more than an hour because of space issues.

Many schools close their buildings on November polling days to allow the community into a school without the potential for any danger to students. However, during smaller elections like primaries and school budget votes in June, many schools remain open and wall off the students from the public. Huntington school district Superintendent Jim Polansky said while his district does not stay open during major elections, they do stay open for students during primaries.

“While I understand that it is a challenge to find alternative sites than can accommodate a vote, using schools as polling places when classes are in session [such as for primary elections] is a significant issue,” Polansky said.

Across the North Shore superintendents lamented the Suffolk Board of Elections requirements. Superintendent James Grossane of Smithtown school district agreed with SCSSA’s proposal, and Paul Casciano of the Port Jefferson School District said he agreed with it even though polling in Port Jeff is held at Village Hall.

“When our buildings are used for public polling sites, the Board of Elections has the authority to designate the final location in the building for polling to occur, which in most cases requires voters to travel through our schools, passing classrooms and common student areas along the way all while not having to go through our strict visitor approval process,” Cheryl Pedisich, superintendent of the Three Village Central School District said.

LaLota said some local districts were being dishonest in their push to take polling out of schools.

“The school officials who choose to keep their May budget and board elections in their schools but demand that the November elections be moved out of their schools have a sincerity problem and are using recent tragedies to satisfy their political agenda, which predates school shootings,” LaLota said.

“The school officials who choose to keep their May budget and board elections in their schools but demand that the November elections be moved out of their schools have a sincerity problem and are using recent tragedies to satisfy their political agenda, which predates school shootings.”

— Nick LaLota

Since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, more and more schools have been drastically updating security measures. Schools from Northport to Shoreham-Wading River have been adding additional security cameras, installing security doors, building security vestibules and hiring additional security guards. Some schools, like Miller Place and Mount Sinai, have taken it one step further and added armed guards to their current suite of school protection earlier this year.

Mount Sinai School District superintendent Gordon Brosdal said he agreed with the SCSSA’s call for the ability to appeal. Currently the Mount Sinai campus contains four armed guards, with one manning a booth at the entrance to the grounds who asks for an ID from all who wish to drive in. He added that he was concerned that with those procedures, voters may take it as a sign of disenfranchisement to request identification. Current New York State election law says polling places cannot ask for voter ID, though LaLota said he was unaware of any statute which prevented districts from seeking identification from those who come onto their campuses.

Marianne Cartisano, the superintendent of the Miller Place school district, has been fighting the specifics for her district’s polling designation since 2013, she said. In years past, the district has had to separate students and the public with the use of cafeteria tables, for a lack of more appropriate space. Since then the district has decided to close all schools on every election day, even for primaries.

Currently Andrew Muller Primary School, North Country Road Middle School and Miller Place High School are all polling locations. Cartisano has long requested the Suffolk County Board of Elections move all polling operations to the high school.

“We requested that let’s just move everything to the high school, where we could accommodate anywhere between 1,000 to 1,500 at a time, we’ll give you the entire building,” Cartisano said. “I know that in other districts accommodations have been made. … I want to do the right thing for our residents, but our residents also include 4-year-olds.”

In April this year the William Floyd school district reported that all polling locations would be moved to the high school, away from the elementary school. LaLota said he would be willing to work with school districts toward that end.

“This is an example of a win-win and I have encouraged my staff to explore more opportunities that increase child safety without disenfranchising voters,” he said.

Law enforcement representatives from Suffolk County Police Department and local police departments discuss armed security personnel in schools at a Northport board of education meeting. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Northport-East Northport school district has been taking it slow and steady in considering hiring armed guards for its school buildings. The board of education is in the process of soliciting professional opinions from local police and security advisers to determine the path forward for its schools.

About 70 people filed into a public meeting hosted by the school board Oct. 11, which included members of the Suffolk County Police Department, Northport Police Department, Asharoken Police Department, the school district’s retained attorneys from Ingerman Smith LLP, the district’s insurance provider New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal and the district’s security adviser to answer the board and the community questions about the potential impact of hiring armed security guards.

“There is a lot of interest about this throughout the county,” said Suffolk County Police Department Inspector Michael Romagnoli, the commanding officer of the department. “All are debating this topic at similar levels.”

The board hosted a previous meeting March 1 where the community came out in droves to voice support for the district hiring armed guards, though when asked whether he would want armed guards Leonard Devlin, the district’s security consultant, said he would prefer not to.

It would be my recommendation to not have armed guards in our schools.’

— Leonard Devlin

“It would be my recommendation to not have armed guards in our schools,” Devlin said. “If we were to have armed security personnel, the officer would only respond if there was an active shooter, not if there was a physical confrontation with a student, teacher or of any nature.”

The district said it has upgraded multiple security measures since the start of the year. Devlin said the district hired 12 new unarmed guards, which now totals 30 guards who patrol campus grounds during the school day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The district also purchased six new security vehicles to complement an existing six, which should arrive in about a month.

Security vestibules are already installed or close to being installed for all schools except Bellerose Avenue Elementary, Ocean Avenue Elementary and Northport Middle School, which the security consultant said would be completed in the future as part of the district’s ongoing $40 million capital bond project. The district said it has installed 30 new cameras this year for a new total of 400 throughout the buildings, though these are monitored sparingly throughout the day and in the late-night hours, Devlin said.

One of the biggest questions raised surrounding the need for armed guards in schools is whether local police response time is fast enough to deal with an armed assailant. Romagnoli said their response time for local cars was four to five minutes, while Northport Police Chief William Ricca said their response time was three to four minutes. The inspector said that a school shooting comes in as a Priority 0, the highest priority, the same as if a call came in that an officer was shot. Romagnoli said since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado cops are trained to enter an active shooter situation immediately upon arriving at the scene.

“Our involvement in the schools has increased tremendously within the last five years, our number of school incidents in the 2nd Precinct has gone up 50 percent, and the officers have more familiarity with the schools just from their daily patrols,” SCPD Deputy Inspector Matthew McCormick said.

Columbine was a long time ago, and now the police are pulled in so many different directions with what to prioritize around Long Island.”

— David Stein

Board Vice President David Stein said he was concerned it was not possible for every member of every police department to be intimate with the district’s six separate school facilities.

“Columbine was a long time ago, and now the police are pulled in so many different directions with what to prioritize around Long Island,” Stein said.

Romagnoli said the 2nd Precinct has one school resource officer assigned to cover all school districts in the area, not accounting for the other police officers who sometimes take up SRO duties part time on top of their normal police work. The SRO is responsible for being a liaison from the district to the police and for safety and crime prevention in schools.

While some members of the board questioned if guards should be on the premises for longer than regular school hours, to protect kids in after-school activities and sports, but Devlin said it came down to money. He estimated armed guards working at approximately $15 an hour for an eight-hour day would cost the district $208,200, if one guard for each of the district’s nine school campuses were allotted. Though Devlin added if the district wants total coverage for the day, including an hour break for each guard, it would have to hire another three to cover them on their breaks, adding up to just under $400,000.

Police representatives admitted armed guards and police arriving on scene of an emergency could present other problems. There is potential for a “blue on blue” situation, where two armed responders potentially confront each other. Current school security recently changed their uniform to be a bright gold color, but there is no consistency in the uniform between armed presences in other schools. Romagnoli said because of these inconsistencies it’s important the district keep a clear line of communication to the police departments and for dispatch to know of the armed presence inside the school.

We routinely drill in active shooter response and deliberately build those scenarios into our drills, and I can say we do have a discharge from one officer to another officer. We would rather that happen in training than out in the world.”

— Michael Romagnoli

“Our protocol is the uniformed officer responding is in charge,” Romagnoli said. “We routinely drill in active shooter response and deliberately build those scenarios into our drills, and I can say we do have a discharge from one officer to another officer. We would rather that happen in training than out in the world.”

Those on the panel representing the district’s liability concerns said insurance would cover the district in most cases should an armed guard be present. John Peppard, the senior vice president of NYSIR, the school’s insurance handler, said the only time the school might have a problem is if the guards, as school employees, went rogue in some way.

Local resident Denise Schwartz said despite assurances from local police departments promising prioritized response, the comments made by the panel members did not instill much optimism, especially considering the presence of just one SCPD SRO and the little time the district monitors the security cameras.

“Several things they said made me feel even less safe,” Swartz said.

For Northport resident Tammie Topel, who said she’s still on the fence about hiring armed guards, the meeting did little to eliminate the catch 22 inherent in the decision.

“I think that it opens up whether you do, or you don’t, you’re either not indemnified, or there’s going to be a lawsuit, or there might be an accidental shooting,” Topel said. “There’s 400 cameras that are not being monitored at all times, so what’s the sense of wasting that money on cameras … they should be monitored if that’s what we’re going to be using them for.”

The district will be hosting another workshop Nov. 1 where it will discuss the emotional and psychological impact of having armed guards in schools. On Nov. 8, the board will discuss whether it will put the item on the agenda for vote at a subsequent meeting.

Deer rutting season means more of the animals running out on local roads. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Love is in the air, which can cause troubles on the roads.

It’s deer rutting season — the time of year they breed — which means the animals are prone to run out on local roadways, causing potential dangers for drivers. While it’s advisable to drive carefully and be vigilant at any time of day, especially near wooded areas, peak time for rutting occurs between dusk and dawn requiring extra caution during those hours, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Lori Ketcham, a rehabilitator with Middle Island-based Save the Animals Rescue Foundation, said the rutting season begins approximately in the middle of October and lasts until the end of November, sometimes longer. She said her main advice during the season is for motorists to drive carefully because the deer don’t think.

“The boys only have one thing on their mind,” Ketcham said. “They’re following the scent so they’re just running. They smell a girl down the street. They run, and they don’t care if there are roads in the way.”

She said if two bucks are fighting, something that would most likely happen in wooded areas and not near the road, to steer clear of them. She said it’s important when seeing a deer run across the street to remember there is a chance another one will follow, whether it’s a buck in heat or a fawn following its mother.

“They are a herd animal,” she said. “If one runs across the road, assume there are more coming.”

Ketcham said it’s important for drivers to keep their eyes not only on the road but the sides of the streets. She said sometimes deer are not hit by a car but run into the side of it, breaking their jaws or necks.

The rehabilitator said it’s important for drivers who hit a deer to check to see if they are dead or not, and not to approach or move an injured deer. Whenever a motorist hits an animal, even smaller ones like squirrels and raccoons, Ketcham advises people to call the police department, adding a person won’t get in trouble for hitting an animal with a car.

“Have someone come out and not have the animal out there suffering,” she said.

Drivers are also cautioned to slow down when approaching deer near a roadside, according to the DEC. While they may look inactive, they can quickly bolt in front of a car.

Bruce Tilden, above, owner of Tilden Lane Farm in Greenlawn, holds up a deer antler prop at the Oct. 10 Town of Huntington board meeting. Photo by Kyle Barr

Hunting season is open in Huntington, though local farmers and residents are at odds over whether the town will soon allow special permits for bowhunting on deer after the season ends.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation currently allows for people to apply for Deer Damage Permits that would allow residents to hunt deer if they can show the animals are negatively impacting agriculture, horticulture, biodiversity or are a threat to human health and safety. The Town of Huntington currently does not allow for these licenses, but some local farmers have been lobbying the town to let them apply for one.

“I’m trying to keep this business alive for my grandchildren,” said Bruce Tilden, the operator of Tilden Lane Farm in Greenlawn. “If it were a bug I could spray it, if it were a rat I could trap it, but because it’s Bambi, I can’t do anything about it.”

Tilden said that his farm, which sells Christmas trees, has had problems of deer rubbing the bark off his trees and doing damage to saplings for many years, mostly before the deer hunting season opens up Oct. 1. He said he had called the DEC but was told he could not apply for a DDP because the Huntington town code prohibits it.

A hunter waits for deer near Cindy Gavel’s house in Asharoken. Photo from Cindy Gavel

Residents living on the edge of wooded property feel giving local hunters the potential to hunt beyond the normal season could only exacerbate what they see is close-proximity hunting going on near their homes. Several Asharoken and Eaton’s Neck residents spoke in an open hearing during a town board meeting Oct. 10 about their issues with longbow hunters near their homes.

“With these permits the danger of hunting would exist all year long” Eaton’s Neck resident Christine Ballow said. “If this is all year long you have a much higher risk for the community… Instead of hunting we could neuter the bucks.”

In 2015, the Huntington town board voted to allow longbow hunting of deer on private property throughout the town during the regular longbow hunting season Oct. 1 to Jan. 31. The hunting still requires a DEC permit.

State regulations also require hunters to be 150 feet from other private property. Though for some like Asharoken resident Cindy Gavel the footage between her and hunters is not enough to provide safety for herself or for the kids in the community.

“It’s ridiculous how many tree stands are in this neighborhood,” Gavel said. “You can’t even feel safe to walk down the street.”

In 2016, Gavel watched as a buck with an arrow in its back leaped her backyard fence before moving into her yard and bleeding to death.

“If they would change the regulations to be 500 feet from private property it would not affect hunters,” she said.

Other nearby townships have enforced greater footage between property and deer hunters. In December 2017, East Quogue-based hunting advocacy group Hunters for Deer sued The Town of Smithtown over its maximum limitations of 500 feet between hunters and private property, saying it was illegal, inconsistent with DEC regulations and that it restricted deer hunting in many parts of the town. A New York State Supreme Court judge dropped the case saying the town was in their right to restrict the footage, according to court filings. The hunting group announced on their Facebook page they would appeal.

If it were a bug I could spray it, if it were a rat I could trap it, but because it’s Bambi, I can’t do anything about it.”

— Bruce Tilden

A spokesperson for the state DEC said that 135 DDPs have been issued in Suffolk County in 2018 and that any complaints about permits or hunting can be sent to the NYS Environmental Conservation Police for investigation.

Ballow asked the town council why Huntington wasn’t considering making the proposed law restricted to commercial farmers alone, but Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said the change in town code was to bring the town into accordance with current DEC and state law, and that it should only apply to farmers who need to deal with deer outside the regular hunting season.

“It’s allowing farmers to get special waivers to take care of their property,” Lupinacci said.

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) said she wished the town council would spend more time reviewing any issues with the new law regarding who could apply for a DDP.

“I question what constitutes a ‘farmer,’” Cergol said. “Is it people with a backyard vegetable garden? We should tighten it to provide clarity — see what we can do to find middle ground.”

Lupinacci said that while the local law does not allow these licenses, the state DEC could issue DDP licenses despite town code. Huntington Town Attorney Nicholas Ciappetta said he believed the DEC could do that, but as far as he knew they haven’t yet.

“The state law trumps the town code in the case there are any inconsistencies, so they could disregard the town code,” Ciappetta said. “But they haven’t so far.”

The board did not give an exact date on when the code change would come to a vote.

Correction: Christine Ballow’s quote was changed to reflect more of her original argument.

MEN-AT-ARMS: Members of the Huntington Militia held a colonial-era encampment at The Arsenal on Park Avenue in Huntington last Sunday, Oct. 14. The free event featured a tour of the 1740 building which was used to store grain until it became the home of Job Sammis and his family in 1748. It was expanded to accommodate weapons and gunpowder for the local militia during the American Revolution. Other activities included musket firing, colonial demonstrations and the loading and firing of a canon on the adjacent Village Green.

Photos by Heidi Sutton

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