Times of Middle Country

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With the 2018 midterm elections over, both New York State and the U.S. as a whole saw a major upset. Despite local leaders like U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) keeping their seats, both the state Senate and U.S. House of Representatives flipped over to the Democratic Party after years of Republican majority control.

They have forgotten about ‘We the People,’ and now it’s all about themselves.”

— Rich Jiranek

Despite these changes, many local residents said they expect to see more gridlock and political divisiveness for the next two years.

“I thought that it was the point of politicians to care about the people, but it’s not,” said Miller Place resident Rich Jiranek. “They have forgotten about ‘We the People,’ and now it’s all about themselves.”

Jiranek, a Republican, said he didn’t see his party accomplish much of anything in the 18 months they controlled both the U.S. Congress and the presidency. Now he said he sees the ongoing push for recounts in the Florida governor’s and senator’s races and Georgia governor’s race as just a prelude to more political bickering.

“It’s just not right,” he said. “There’s nothing fair about it anymore.”

The sense of foreboding over potential partisanship was shared by people of all different political ideologies. Steve and Christina Dierlam, both Lindenhurst residents, sat at one of the outside tables at the Port Jeff Brewing Company on a cool fall afternoon, thankful for the day off with their young child because of paid family leave, a law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in 2016 and enacted at the beginning of 2018.

“Everything is just going to grind to a halt at this point,” Steve Dierlam said “I think that is what we’re dealing with. It’s pretty terrible that we’re the only two districts that went Republican when the rest of the districts in New York went Democrat.”

Christina Dierlam agreed and said that while she and her husband have voted for Democrats and agree with a lot of Democratic legislation, she believes government will come to a major impasse.

“Whoever is the speaker, the Democrats are going to shoot down any legislation the Trump administration or the Republicans try to implement, which I’m happy about, but it will just present more gridlock,” she said.

“This party wants to do that; the other party wants to do this. As bad as that sounds, that has been happening for a long time before this election.”

— Patrick Leahy

Mount Sinai resident Anna Hill said she expects to see even more conflict, especially with recent comments by the now expected majority leader in the House Nancy Pelosi (D) about re-opening the investigation into Russian involvement during the 2016 presidential election and ties to the Trump campaign. Trump has tweeted that if his campaign is investigated, he will challenge the Democrats in the House.

“I think what’s going to happen is there’s going to be more conflict, and Trump is going to be bullying people in the House of Representatives, and that’s going to make it harder to get things done,” Hill said. “I see more chaos, unfortunately.”

All those interviewed said that they disagreed with the political discord and partisan squabbling, but it was hard to say how or when it could ever stop. Stony Brook resident Patrick Leahy said that not enough attention gets paid to local laws that impact people on a day-to-day basis, and the political divisiveness has gotten to the point where people will move from their homes just to live in areas that agree with them politically.

“A person’s actions define their character, not what they say,” Leahy said. “This party wants to do that; the other party wants to do this. As bad as that sounds, that has been happening for a long time before this election.”

Though not all is doom and gloom, according to Port Jefferson Station resident Tara Braaten. This midterm election saw some high turnout all across the country. The New York Times reported that, by current estimates, 113 million people came out to vote in these midterms, encompassing 48 percent of the eligible voter population. This is up from the 2014 midterm elections, which saw only 83 million votes cast.

“I just feel that raising awareness and people being more active and proactive participating is going to have more of a difference to whatever decision being made or outcome,” she said. “We have to have constant vigilance, and it’s still up to us, despite who’s sitting in the chair.”

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The Centereach Cougars varsity football team traveled to Lindenhurst Middle School to take on the Bulldogs on Nov. 10. The Cougars fell to Lindenhurst 14 -7 in the Division II county semifinal.

Local children took time out of their school day Nov. 9 to show veterans that they will never forget.

Some 50 students from New Lane Memorial Elementary School in Selden performed a patriotic musical celebration at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University.

Fifth-graders from the school thanked the 300 veteran residents for their contributions and sacrifices while serving in the armed forces after the performance by shaking hands.

Also in attendance were state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who was the keynote speaker; Fred Sganga, LISVH executive director; several veteran service organization members; and the New York Army National Guard.

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Newfield Wolverines varsity boys soccer team contested Walt Whitman High School Nov. 1 for the Suffolk Class AA boys soccer final at Diamond in the Pines, Coram, and lost to the Wildcats, 2-1.

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A raccoon in Centereach wandered into a backyard while its face was stuck in a peanut butter jar. Photo by Frankie Floridia

A raccoon with his face cramped tight in a peanut butter jar wandered onto a Centereach homeowner’s property Oct. 29, but luckily a local rescue group managed to save its life.

The homeowner contacted Frankie Floridia, the president of Strong Island Animal Rescue League, a Sound Beach-based animal rescue group, concerned for the creature’s life. By the time the rescuer arrived, the animal had disappeared. He then set up thermal cameras and told the Centereach resident to call him again if he heard anything more. At 3 a.m. Oct. 30, the creature appeared again, and this time climbed a tall tree. Floridia took a catchpole up a 20-foot ladder to nab the raccoon before getting down on the ground and physically removing the jar as the raccoon squeaked in fear.

“It was a high adrenaline moment,” Floridia said. “He was so strong, and that’s to say I’m not a light guy, I’m 175 pounds, but I was pulling and pulling, and we both came off, and I hit the ground hard.”

After the animal had calmed down, he gave one last gracious look to his two rescuers before scampering off. The raccoon even came back the next night for cat food from the homeowner.

Floridia said that raccoons often get their faces stuck in jars as they look for food. He added that the raccoon in Centereach most likely had been stuck for close to 24 hours, and it most likely did not have much time to live if it remained in that state without being able to breathe, eat or drink.

“I don’t think he had much longer to go,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin celebrates securing his third term in office Nov. 8 in Patchogue, joining hands with one of his daughters and Suffolk County Republican Party Chairman John Jay LaValle. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nationally the Democratic Party experienced a successful night, winning enough Congressional races to flip the House of Representatives from Republican control.

The long-billed blue wave petered out on the North Shore of Long Island however, as two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) fended off a challenge from first-time candidate Democrat Perry Gershon, an East Hampton resident and commercial real estate lender, winning re-election by securing more than 52 percent of the vote.

“This was the clear contrast of results versus resistance, and results won today,” Zeldin said from the podium at Stereo Garden in Patchogue after results were in Nov. 6. “It’s important we get to people’s business and deliver results.”

As many — if not all — House races did across the country, Zeldin and Gershon’s battle took on a nasty tone, largely focused on their opinions of President Donald Trump (R) and his job performance thus far.

“Our country needs to do much better uniting,” Zeldin said. “We also need to make sure our scores are settled at the ballot box, and that next day we wake up to govern.”

He thanked his opponent for running a tough race.

Onlookers celebrate as results roll in Nov. 8 at Democratic Party campaign headquarters in Hauppauge. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It’s not the outcome we wanted but life goes on,” Gershon said when his fate appeared sealed from IBEW Local 25 Long Island Electricians union headquarters in Hauppauge. “We’re so much better off than we were two years ago. We showed the Democratic Party has a heart here in eastern Suffolk County.”

Both candidates’ respective Suffolk County party chairmen applauded their efforts.

“He worked very hard and developed a grassroots campaign,” Democratic Party Chairman Rich Schaffer said. “We have not heard the last of Perry Gershon.”

John Jay LaValle, Republican Party chairman for the county, dismissed the idea Election Day 2018 was something to be celebrated by Democrats locally.

“There was no blue wave in Suffolk County tonight, in fact the only thing blue tonight was my tie,” he said.

Incumbent 3rd District U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) secured 58 percent of the vote against Republican challenger Dan DeBono to secure another term as well.

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!” Suozzi posted on his campaign Facebook page. “It is an honor to serve.”

Despite LaValle’s assertion, the blue party scored major victories in several statewide battles, enough to flip the New York State Senate to Democratic control, meaning all three houses of the state government are controlled by the same party. Nearly all incumbent state legislators from both parties held serve on the North Shore though.

The 2nd District state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) won re-election to continue his more than 30 years in the Senate, defeating challenger Kathleen Cleary by about 11 percentage points. Flanagan will relinquish his spot as Senate Majority Leader with the Democrats seizing control. He could not be reached for comment by press time Nov. 7.

“I did not win but we made sure that the issues important to us: women’s reproductive health, the Child Victims Act, ERPO, [the New York Health Act] were discussed and now that the [state] Senate has flipped to blue these bills will be passed,” Cleary said in a post on her campaign Facebook page.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who has represented the 1st District since the 1970s, easily won another term, besting Democrat Greg Fischer for a second consecutive cycle, this time by 17 percentage points. LaValle could not be reached for comment Nov. 7 either.

“It’s very difficult to unseat a long-term incumbent,” Fischer said. “Like it or not, the system is filled with or based on lots of favors, so there’s always that tendency to reward people for their past performance.”

Democrats Jim Gaughran and Monica Martinez won surprise upsets in nearby Long Island state Senate districts, defeating incumbent Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) and Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) in their respective races, which were major contributors to the shift of power in New York’s legislative branch.

In the state Assembly, Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was easily returned to his longtime post representing the 4th District, earning 60 percent of the vote to his challenger Christian Kalinowski’s 40 percent.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to the task at hand, protecting the environment, the quality of life of our community and enhancing it, making sure we have adequate funding for our schools and for the next generation,” Englebright said. “We have a lot to do.”

Englebright’s Assembly colleagues from across the aisle on the North Shore will all be returning to Albany as well.

The 2nd District Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) blew out first-time candidate Democrat Rona Smith to earn a third term, winning about 60 percent of the vote.

Democrat Perry Gershon thanks supporters Nov. 8 in Hauppauge after accepting defeat in his race to represent New York’s 1st Congressional District against incumbent Lee Zeldin. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It’s great to see we won by a nice margin — it validates we’re going on the right direction,” Palumbo said. “I will try to discuss some issues raised by my opponent, including the issue of health care with the 5 percent uninsured rate.”

Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Smithtown) will head to Albany for another term after beating Democrat and first-time candidate David Morrissey handily, 61 percent to 39 percent.

“I’m going to continue to pursue my objective of being a strong voice for mandate relief and strengthening the private sector to make people aware of the need to slow down the growth of taxes,” Fitzpatrick said. “We are losing too many people — too many retirees, too many young people. Too many people in the middle class are looking elsewhere as the cost of living is getting too high.”

Republican for the 12th Assembly District Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) will continue his tenure, as will Democrat Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), who captured the 10th Assembly District seat in a special election in April.

Though members of Brookhaven Town’s board were not on the ballot this year, voters overwhelmingly passed a back-of-the-ballot proposition that extended officials terms in office from two years to four, and limited officeholders to three terms. A total of 58 percent voted in favor of that measure with 42 percent opposing.

“We felt that this was the right time to put out this proposition, especially with all the talk about the president stimulating turnout,” said Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point).

Reporting contributed by Sara-Megan Walsh, Rita J. Egan and Kyle Barr.

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Polls closed in New York at 9 p.m.

Check back for updated results as they come in.

Check out results from the state, federal and local North Shore races as they come in on election night. Follow @TBRnewsmedia on Facebook and Twitter for the latest and search the hashtag #TBRVoters. All results are courtesy of the Suffolk County Board of Elections and the New York State Board of Elections.

1st Congressional District

Lee Zeldin (R): 52.47%; 130,919

Perry Gershon (D): 46.41%; 115,795

“This was the clear contrast of results versus resistance, and results won today,” Zeldin said. “It’s important we get to people’s business and deliver results.”

3rd Congressional District 

Tom Suozzi (D): 54.33%; 49,448

Dan DeBono (R): 45.64%, 41,571

New York State Assembly 2nd District

Anthony Palumbo (R): 60.20%; 29.340

Rona Smith (D): 39.78%; 19.386

“It’s great to see we won by a nice margin,” Palumbo said. “It validates we’re going in the right direction. I will try to discuss some issues raised by my opponent”

New York State Assembly 4th District

Steve Englebright (D): 60.15%; 25,742

Christian Kalinowski (R): 39.84%; 17,050

New York State Assembly 8th District

Mike Fitzpatrick (R): 61.42%; 30,383

Dave Morrissey (D): 38.58%; 19,086

“I’m going to continue to pursue my objective of being a strong voice for mandate relief and strengthening the private sector to make people aware the need to slow down the growth of taxes,” Fitzpatrick said. “We are losing too many people — too many retirees, too many young people, too many people in the middle class are looking elsewhere as the cost of living is getting too high.”

The incumbent also promised in his ninth term to continue pushing for sewers in St. James, Smithtown and Kings Park. Fitzpatrick said his Democratic challenger Dave Morrissey was a gentleman and “a worthy opponent.” Morrissey campaigned strongly on the need for the state to dedicate more resources toward combating Long Island’s opioid drug addiction issues.
“Both sides of the aisle feel strongly about doing what we can to deal with the opioid issue,” Fitzpatrick said. “His race brought more attention to it, so I applaud him for that.”
New York State Assembly 10th District

Steve Stern (D): 59.48%; 26,687

Jeremy Williams (R): 40.51%; 18,176

New York State Assembly 12th District

Andrew Raia (R): 55.88%; 26,705

Avrum Rosen (D): 44.11%; 21,080

New York State Senate 1st District

Ken LaValle (R): 58.32%; 65,933

Greg Fischer (D): 41.64%; 47,084

New York State Senate 2nd District

John Flanagan (R): 55.36%; 62,748

Kathleen Cleary (D): 44.63%; 50,581

New York State Senate 5th District

Jim Gaughran (D): 53.23%; 62,933

Carl Marcellino (R): 44.73%; 52,883

Smithtown Town Board

Tom Lohmann (R): 57.95%; 26,428

Amy Fortunato (D): 42.03%; 19,170

Huntington Town Board

Joan Cergol (D): 53.16%; 40,741

Jim Leonick (R): 46.83%; 35,884

Brookhaven Town Proposal 1

Yes: 58.15%; 80,250

No: 41.85%; 57,747

***Totals are not final.

Updated Nov. 7 at 12:10 a.m.

Updated Nov. 7 at 3:30 p.m.

 

 

Sheldon Polan, above center, with his son Andy Polan, left, and Fred Sganga, executive director of the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook, during one of his weekly visits to the home. Photo from Andy Polan

One World War II veteran’s weekly visit to the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook is not about using its services — it’s about his passion for helping.

Sheldon Polan in uniform. Photo from Andy Polan

Sheldon Polan, who retired from his career as a full-time optician in 1987, visits veterans at the home every Thursday to measure and fit patients for glasses and adjust the spectacles when they come in.

The Selden resident, who turns 91 Nov. 10, said he’s been helping out at the home for seven years through his son Andy Polan’s business, Stony Brook Vision World, which is an affiliated practitioner of the veterans home.

“One day Andy says to me, ‘Dad, I can’t get over there — maybe you can help to bail me out,’” Sheldon Polan said.

The number of patients the optician sees varies from one or two to seven or eight depending on the day. When it comes to interacting with his fellow veterans, Polan, who served his time at West Point, said he enjoys talking to them about their military experiences.

“It gives you a common ground,” the optician said. “It kind of relaxes them too. It’s not ‘What are you going to do next.’”

Recently, the elder Polan took 20 examinations to renew his license, which is now valid for three more years. Through the decades, he’s seen a lot of advances in eyeglasses, including eyewear going from thick glass, where eyeglass wearers felt like they were wearing Coke bottles, to lighter plastics.

Polan said he occasionally helps his son out at Stony Brook Vision World, relieving some of the rigors of business ownership. Andy Polan is the president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and a former president of his synagogue.

Being an optician wasn’t the veteran’s original career plan though. He said he was making a good living working for a large gas station in Brooklyn after the war, but freezing temperatures in the winter made it difficult to work sometimes. His brother, who was an optician, suggested he go to college to learn to become one.

“I went into the school, I liked what I saw, and I persevered,” he said.

“He is incredibly passionate about his work and is highly regarded by our residents.”

— Fred Sganga

Polan went on to work for 30 years with Dr. Norman Stahl in Garden City, who was the founder of Stahl Eyecare Experts, one of the first ophthalmologist offices in New York to use LASIK surgery when it became available in America in the ’90s.

Andy Polan said his father is a big help to him not only assisting at Stony Brook Vision World and at the veterans home but also making house calls when he can’t.

“I’m honored to have that,” the son said. “I’m luckier than a lot of people that my father at this age is able to still be very vital and helpful.”

Father and son both said they feel residents are fortunate to have the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook nearby.

“My dad is proud of what he sees over at the vets’ hospital,” Andy Polan said, adding that while many other veterans homes receive negative publicity, Long Island State Veterans Home executive director, Fred Sganga, goes above and beyond to make sure his patients are taken care of properly.

The respect is mutual. Sganga said it’s clear Polan loves to work with his fellow veterans.

“He is incredibly passionate about his work and is highly regarded by our residents,” Sganga said. “Sheldon’s optometry skills combined with his caring personality make him a welcome addition to our home. We salute him for his ageless abilities and his passion to serve his fellow veterans.”

Sheldon Polan said visiting veterans, where even a simple greeting means a lot to them, is important.

“Once I saw what I was giving to them and what I was getting back, I was hooked,” the optician said. “You got to feel for these people.”

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R). By Kyle Barr

While Democrat Greg Fischer has a lot of interesting ideas and enthusiasm, state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) made a point during their debate that his challenger’s goals are philosophical. While Fischer looks to create a brand-new transportation system for New York state to create jobs, LaValle is looking right in Long Island’s backyard and has already started the procedure to study the possibility of electrification of the Long Island Rail Road from Huntington to Port Jefferson.

LaValle said he believes “1st District first” when it comes to making decisions. His recent efforts led to securing $25 million in funds along with state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) for the initial phases for developing a new engineering building on the Stony Brook University campus. The move is to attract more engineering students to Long Island with the hopes they will remain and work in the area after graduating.

We believe that since being elected as state senator in 1976, LaValle has proven time and time again he has Long Island’s best interests in mind, works across party lines and gets the job done.

For New York State 1st Senate District, our endorsement goes to state Sen. Ken LaValle.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D). Photo by Kyle Barr

Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is there for his constituents. While he is a champion for the environment in New York state, he always keeps a foot in his district and has his mind on local issues.

When proposed plans by the federal government to drill in coastal waters threatened our local waterways, Englebright wasted no time in organizing hearings in Hauppauge that gave local residents, scientists and environmentalists the opportunity to present their concerns about drilling to legislators.

The fact that the assemblyman’s Republican opponent Christian Kalinowski declined to take part in the debate at our office and doesn’t even have a campaign website speaks volumes to us. The most important steps a budding politician can take is showing up and discussing the issues.

Englebright shows up and he has no problem discussing the issues, even reaching across party lines. “Parties are not the goal,” he said at our office. “Parties are the tool. The goal is always serve the people.”

The assemblyman told us his mission is to leave things better than how he found them, and we think he is accomplishing that goal in New York State’s 4th Assembly District. Elected 13 times as assemblyman and a Suffolk County legislator before that, he has proven time and time again he cares about the 4th District — but also just cares in general — and we support him for re-election.

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