Times of Middle Country

John Kennedy Jr. (R) and Steve Bellone (D). File Photos

Executive Steve Bellone, Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. offer differing view of what financial future holds

When asked to critically examine Suffolk County’s finances and what lies ahead for residents, our executive branch and accounting officials couldn’t be further divided on their vision of the future. 

Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) said out of the $410 million operating note the county sought to sell for 2019 operating funds only half, or $207 million, could be competitively sold in December. Instead, he had to rely on a negotiated agreement with Bank of America to give the funds needed to run the county’s government at an interest rate of 2.35 percent. 

“This has been one of the toughest times we’d had in the market since I’ve taken office,” Kennedy said. 

“We are in some very strenuous times.”

— John Kennedy Jr.

The county comptroller, since 2015, said it was a combination of factors that negatively impacted Suffolk: seeking funding later than normal, stock market uncertainty and, perhaps most importantly, that Moody’s downgrading the county’s bond rating from A3 to Baa1. 

“We are barred from being purchased by many major investment funds,” Kennedy said, citing Fidelity and T. Rowe Price Group won’t invest. “We are in some very strenuous times.” 

Eric Naughton, Suffolk’s budget director, said while the county’s bond rating was dropped the comptroller was “overstating” its impact and meaning. 

“[Moody’s investors] are looking at the past,” he said. “They are not looking at what is happening in the future.” 

Naughton cited how Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone (D) has implemented many structural changes since taking office in 2012 including reducing the county’s workforce by approximately 1,200 employees, closed John J. Foley nursing home in Yaphank that was losing money and creating the Traffic and Parking Violations Agency to bring in additional funds. 

Kennedy countered that from March 2012 to September 2018 Moody’s has downgraded the county’s bond rating by five ranks. 

“We need to change how county government operates,” the comptroller said. 

Suffolk is not likely to see the state takeover of the county’s government like Nassau according to Kennedy, in good part because the county has about half the outstanding debt of neighboring Nassau — a sentiment with which Naughton agreed. 

The comptroller suggested that in order to avoid dire straits, Suffolk officials should move to consolidate by merging county offices with similar functions, encourage shared services among municipalities, reduce its workforce, evaluate and sell off surplus property where possible, like the former Suffolk County Police 6th Precinct building in Coram. 

“Structural changes were needed and these structural changes were adopted.”

— Jason Elan

Jason Elan, a spokesman for Bellone, said the county executive has done just that. Under Bellone, the county treasurer and comptroller positions were merged, as were four departments made into two:  Labor and Consumer Affairs and Economic Development and Planning. Bellone made county employees contribute 15 percent to their health insurance premiums while taking a pay freeze himself, at an estimated savings of more than $300,000. Further, Suffolk’s workforce has been reduced and, according to Naughton, county-operated land and property is being evaluated to see if it can be deemed surplus. 

“Structural changes were needed and these structural changes were adopted,” Bellone’s spokesman said, noting Kennedy voted against or opposed many of the measures. 

What looms ahead for Suffolk is negotiation of a new contract with the Police Benevolent Association. Kennedy said at a current cost of $573 million per year, the police contract is the largest item in the county’s $3.11 billion 2019 budget followed by roughly $451 million for county employee’s health insurance. 

“If we are not focused on actively managing those expenditures in both categories, we might as well shut off the lights and go home,” he said.

In fact, it’s not just the police but all of the county’s employee contracts have expired. Elan said Bellone would not comment on the status of PBA negotiations. 

Rather he said the county’s greatest opportunity lies in furthering its economic development, like the proposed Ronkonkoma Hub and other projects that will bring businesses to the area.

These issues are some that are expected to be addressed by Bellone when he gives his annual State of the County per tradition in May. 

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By Bill Landon

Centereach girls fencing faced Sayville/Bayport/Connetquot at the old Sayville junior high school Jan. 26 with two matches remaining in the regular season.

According to Centereach Coach Cristina Piraino, her squad wasn’t at full strength with missing a few starters who were competing in the Science Olympiads event.

Despite the spotty roster the Cougars managed to win 10 of 27 bouts where Kayley Otero won all three of her matches in foil, as did eighth-grader Gianna DiCanio.

The Cougars rallied back later in the day to beat Brentwood/Bay Shore 15-12 to remain in second place at 5-2 in League II. Centereach is back out on the strip at home Jan 31. First bout is at 5 p.m.

Graphic by TBR News Media

By Sara-Megan Walsh and Kyle Barr

The three North Shore towns of Brookhaven, Huntington and Smithtown are grappling with how to best recycle in 2019 after Brookhaven’s facility ground to a halt in October 2018. 

An aerial view of Town of Brookhaven’s Green Stream Recycling plant in Yaphank is surrounded by recyclables in August 2018. Brookhaven has since returned to dual stream recycling. Photo from Town of Smithtown

In that month, Brookhaven’s recycling contractor Green Stream Recycling prematurely terminated its 25-year agreement to operate the town’s recycling plant in Yaphank. The announcement came as collected recyclables piled up like mountains outside the Yaphank facility as China’s new National Sword policy took effect, implemented in January 2018, which set strict contamination limits on recyclable materials it would accept. Up until then, China had been the world’s largest importer of recycled materials, and now local towns had to scramble to find a new market to sell to.

All three towns solicited bids from recycling companies in the hopes of finding the most efficient and green solution for its residents. 

The result is Brookhaven, Huntington and Smithtown have all taken slightly different approaches based on what services they’ve been offered. Residents have been puzzled by new recycling schedules, as the townships are still attempting to explain what has changed with their recycling and how it will impact the future.

Brookhaven

Once the bottom of the recycling market fell out from China’s decision, Brookhaven was caught directly in the storm that followed, with the Green Stream facility being the center of multiple towns’ recycling efforts.

“It’s not the system that so much changed, as much as what was allowable,” said Christopher Andrade, the town’s recycling commissioner. “[China] went down from 5 percent contamination to 0.5 percent. It wasn’t the equipment that caused the problem, it was the standard that caused the problem.”

At the Jan. 17 Brookhaven Town Board meeting, council members unanimously voted to sign a $760,000 contract with West Babylon-based Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island to take their materials to Smithtown’s Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. 

The new standards mean Brookhaven residents can only put out the most common No. 1 and 2 plastics, which are collected together with aluminum such as food cans. Paper products are collected separately. The town asked that any unclean paper products such as used pizza boxes be thrown out with regular trash instead. Glass is no longer being picked curbside by the town, and instead can be placed at one of seven drop-off points located around the town.

“It’s not the system that so much changed, as much as what was allowable.”

— Chris Andrade

To advertise these changes, Brookhaven took out newspapers ads and broadcasted the changes on radio, television and social media at the tail end of 2018. The town is planning another media blitz for 2019, including another mailer to all residents along with additional newspaper and radio ads. The annual mailer sent to Brookhaven residents, which includes information about the new recycling system, costs $30,000. Otherwise the town has spent approximately $12,000 on newspaper ads and roughly $10,000 on radio ads so far. Andrade said the town is continuing to advertise the changes.

Further changes to Brookhaven’s recycling system could again appear on the horizon. Matt Miner, chief of operations, said the town is looking for means of getting its recycling facility restarted, though this would require a new contractor to partner with Brookhaven. 

Andrade said he hopes to have the facility running again before the six-month contract with Smithtown is up. In addition, the recycling commissioner said he is awaiting news of the current litigation between the town and Green Stream over the voided contract.

For now, Brookhaven is sticking with dual stream, as officials said single-stream recycling resulted in a worse quality product that at this point was near impossible to sell.

For more information on recycling, visit Brookhaven’s video on recycling.

Smithtown

The Town of Smithtown opted to take a unique approach to dual-stream recycling by taking on two different contracts in hopes of getting their best payout for recycled materials. 

In December, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) signed a six-month contract with Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island to pick up all collected paper and cardboard recycling in exchange for paying the town $30 per ton. These collections are expected to net Smithtown approximately $177,000 per year, if they choose to extend the contract. 

Since Oct. 29 the Town of Smithtown has been piling up residents’ recyclables at its Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. File Photo by Kyle Barr

The town entered a separate contract with Islandia-based Trinity Transportation, which will take unprocessed curbside metals and plastics, limited to plastics Nos. 1 and 2, with $68 per ton being paid by the town, at a total cost of approximately $104,000 per year. 

Overall, the combination of two contracts along with money received from Brookhaven for shipping their recyclables for pickup, will net the town approximately $178,500 per year in total, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. 

Residents who wish to recycle their glass bottles and containers can drop off materials at three locations throughout town: Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park, Town Hall and the Highway Department building on Route 347 in Nesconset.  

Smithtown Town Board has budgeted $16,000 for its public campaign regarding the return to dual-stream, the least of any township but also with the smallest population to reach. Garguilo said many of the graphics and printed materials have been designed in-house, which has helped save money. She added that the supervisor and town officials will be speaking with senior citizen groups and community associations throughout early 2019 to help re-educate residents who may not be technologically savvy. 

For more information on recycling, go to Smithtown’s video on the subject.

Huntington 

After the Yaphank plant’s closure, the Town of Huntington signed a two-year contract with Omni Recycling of Babylon returning to a dual-stream process with papers and cardboard being collected on alternate weeks from plastics, aluminum and glass. The town’s total recycling costs will depend on how well the town can re-educate residents and their compliance, according to Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R).

“The only vendors continuing single-stream recycling would have trucked it off Long Island at a cost of $120 to $135 a ton,” he said. “It’s a matter of re-educating the public and getting them used to the old system again.” 

“It’s a matter of re-educating the public and getting them used to the old system again.”

— Chad Lupinacci

Lupinacci said to stick with a single-stream process would have cost the town approximately $1.7 million to $2 million a year based on bids received from contractors. As such, the town decided to move to a dual-stream process where its costs will be determined by how much of the collected material is clean enough to be repurposed. The town will receive $15 per ton of recyclable papers and cardboard delivered to Omni Recycling, and be billed $78 per contaminated ton as determined by the facility. 

“We require lids and covers on the recycling bins to reduce contamination from dirt and moisture,” the supervisor said. “Soiled and moldy paper are not recyclable.” 

The Town of Huntington expects to collect 900,000 tons of paper and cardboard from its residents. Assuming that 80 percent will be clean enough to recycle, Lupinacci said the town will wind up paying out approximately $32,000 for its paper goods. 

Unlike Brookhaven and Smithtown, Huntington town residents can continue to put all plastics, Nos. 1 through 7, and glass bottles out for curbside pickup. Based on an average of 550,000 tons collected annually, the town will pay $75 a ton, at a cost of $412,500 a year, to recycle these materials. 

“I think people are adjusting, but it will take a few weeks.”

— Chad Lupinacci

The Town of Huntington has set aside nearly $86,000 in 2019 — more than Brookhaven and Smithtown combined — to educate its residents about the return to dual stream. According to Huntington’s website, dual-stream recycling is the collection of bottles, cans and plastics one week, with paper and corrugated cardboard the following week. Half that budget will be paid by a grant obtained from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, according to Lupinacci. To date, the town has spent $1,000 on social media ads and roughly $43,000 on printed materials including direct mailers and calendars. 

The supervisor said it seems to be paying off. 

“Omni-Westbury, [which] does our collection, said the quality of our first week’s recyclables was better than expected,” Lupinacci said. 

The first collection of papers and cardboard in January yielded 104 tons, only 10 percent of which was considered contaminated, according to the supervisor. 

“I think people are adjusting, but it will take a few weeks,” he said. 

For more information on recycling, watch Huntington’s video on recycling.

Glass: Is it worth collecting? 

Glass is a product many town officials have found difficult to sell, as there’s not much market for it.

Brookhaven and Smithtown are no longer accepting it as part of curbside pickup, but rather asking their residents to bring glass bottles to various drop-off locations. Collections at these locations has increased, according to Miner, and Brookhaven Town has installed larger containers to meet that demand.

To date, Brookhaven has sent two pilot shipments with Jersey City-based Pace Glass Recycling, and Miner said the town is looking to set up some sort of long-term contract.  Andrade said the town is not currently making money from sending the glass to Pace, but the only costs incurred are from the town employees hauling the product up to New Jersey.

“This is actually a recycling of the glass, which most of the towns on Long Island have not been able to achieve,” Miner said.

Andrade added there is a chance Brookhaven could land a deal with the New
Jersey-based company.

“You have to establish relationships, so we’re still in the beginning of the dance there,” the recycling commissioner said. “They’re taking a look at the quality of our material … they’re liking the material so I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Smithtown elected officials renewed a prior inter-municipal agreement with Brookhaven at their Jan. 24 meeting, agreeing to ship the town’s collected glass to their neighbor for processing. 

Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and 6th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate two people who allegedly stole merchandise from a Selden store in January.

A man and woman allegedly stole assorted products from Vapor Nation, located at 978 Middle Country Road,  Jan. 3 at approximately 4:30 p.m.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at www.tipsubmit.com.

All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

Vivian-Viloria-Fisher. File photo by Kyle Barr

By Vivian Viloria-Fisher

New York State lawmakers are moving forward with a number of progressive changes to our election laws. Democrats are to be commended for keeping the promise they made to New Yorkers to make it easier for all of us to exercise our right to vote.

Vivian Viloria-Fisher was a Suffolk County legislator from 1999-2011. Photo from Suffolk County Democratic Committee

But Albany has not yet addressed fusion voting. New York state is only one of eight states where fusion voting occurs. Voters come across fusion voting or cross endorsements when they enter the ballot box and see a candidate’s name on several lines on the ballot. This occurs most often in judicial races: candidate Jane Doe is on the Republican, Democratic, Conservative, Independence, Working Family and possibly other lines. The voter might ask herself, “What difference will my vote make?” Good question, since cross endorsements generally take the choice out of the hands of the voter and into the hands of party leaders.

In 2010 Suffolk County Clerk Judith Pascale (R) and county Comptroller Joseph Sawicki (R) both won their re-elections with 100 percent of the vote. In 2013, Sheriff Vincent DeMarco (C), county Treasurer Angie Carpenter (R) and Suffolk’s District Attorney Thomas Spota (D)  all achieved remarkable victories by garnering 100 percent of the public’s support. Of course, the support came from the backroom deals that agreed to put the officials’ names on the Republican, Democratic, Conservative and Independence party lines. Pascale repeated this feat in 2014.

Fusion voting created a Suffolk County government in which five of the six countywide positions were held for eight years by individuals who had been selected, not elected. This begs the question as to who was watching the proverbial store when both the treasurer and comptroller were beholden to party bosses or whether justice was being served when both the sheriff and district attorney — who later left office under a cloud — were ordained in backroom deals.

Minor parties gain a disproportionate amount of power by doling out their lines for patronage jobs or other political favors. Most egregious among these is the Independence Party that has no identifiable platform, and whose ranks are filled with people who believe that they have registered as Independent — unaffiliated voters only to later discover that they are part of a party.

Voters are often perplexed as to some discordant alliances reflected on the ballot. How is a Democrat endorsed by the Democratic and Conservative parties? Candidates waffle on important issues that define the basic values of the party in which they are registered in order to get on the line of a third party.

We focus our attention on the corruption and disenfranchisement on the national level, but we should not forget that all politics is local. Because of fusion voting, there is a disproportionate number of Conservative judges in Suffolk County, relative to the number of Conservative party members in the general public. In the 2018 Supreme Court 10th Judicial District race, all seven victors names appeared on the Democratic line: the top three vote getters on the Democratic and Republican lines, the next four on the Democratic, Conservative and Independence lines. Given the challenges to democratic values that our nation faces in the nominations of even more conservative judges to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is mind boggling to know that local party leaders align the Democratic and Conservative parties on the ballot of the 10th Judicial District.

I have voiced my concerns about cross endorsements for many years, but now is the moment that leaders and elected officials must be held accountable and must be pressured to put an end to this deceptive practice. Let your members on the New York State Assembly and Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) know that fusion voting is contrary to our democracy’s basic tenet of a citizen’s right to vote.

Vivian Viloria-Fisher was a Suffolk County legislator 1999-2011. She ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2018 in the Democratic primary for the 1st District.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the swearing-in of state Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport). Photo by Sara Meghan Walsh

By David Luces 

More than a week after New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) released his proposed budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, many municipalities both big and small in Suffolk County may have to face the reality of losing state funding. 

This comes as a result of the governor’s decision to end state funding to Suffolk County towns and villages as part of a program called Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, which was originally established in the state’s 2005-06 fiscal year. 

If the budget passes, 41 towns and villages in Suffolk County stand to lose AIM funding. Those local governments that rely on AIM funding for more than 2 percent of their budgets would keep this aid.

“It’s as if the governor has decided to aim a dagger at the heart of every municipality on Long Island,” Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. 

“It’s as if the governor has decided to aim a dagger at the heart of every municipality on Long Island.”

— Ed Romaine

The Town of Brookhaven stands to lose $1.8 million, which is the second highest loss in funding behind the Town of Hempstead which is set to lose $3.8 million. 

Romaine said the decision to cut aid for Brookhaven taxpayers is unconscionable and that it will have an immediate and serious impact on town services and could result in a tax increase. 

Other townships along the North Shore are also standing on the cliff’s edge of funding loss. Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said in a statement that he is disappointed to learn of what he called an unprecedented $59 million in total cuts Cuomo has proposed in his 2020 NYS budget, including little more than $1 million in AIM funds for Huntington. 

“[This is] effectively gutting the unrestricted state revenue sharing program and significantly affecting the Long Island region,” the town supervisor said. “I urge our state Legislature to reject the governor’s dangerous proposal, which could translate into service and program cuts and layoffs.”

The Huntington supervisor added the town should not be punished because of what he described as its conservative fiscal practices, which have resulted in a state funding stream that represents less than 2 percent of the town’s budget. 

“When you take over $1 million away from us, the money has to come from somewhere,” he said. 

Over in the Town of Smithtown, which stands to lose more than $650,000 in AIM funds, officials are staying wary of the timetables, especially considering that many municipalities calculate the AIM funds into their regular yearly budgets. 

“We’ve heard about it, though it’s not official yet — there’s a distinct possible that it could happen,” said Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R). 

“When you take over $1 million away from us, the money has to come from somewhere.”

—Chad Lupinacci

Town officials expressed that the governor should give them and other municipalities more time to prepare for the proposed budget cuts. 

Werheim said the town already has completed its budget and if the money is lost it would put a hole in their operating budget, forcing them to allocate funds from somewhere else. 

If the governor’s plan goes into effect, programs like Horizons Counseling & Education could lose funding, officials said. The program is funded to provide adolescent and adult treatment, prevention and education services for drug- and alcohol-related problems. 

“I’d ask [the governor] to reconsider other avenues,” Werheim said. “Many municipalities on Long Island depend and rely on federal funding.” 

Many incorporated villages along the North Shore are also looking at a funding loss, such as the Village of Northport which is expected to lose $50,000. Others villages like Poquott would lose $2,500, Belle Terre $4,100 and Old Field $3,500.

“I do not yet know how this is going to impact the village,” Old Field Mayor Michael Levine said.

The Village of Port Jefferson would lose $33,000 of AIM funding. 

“If that goes through it means losing another budget revenue line,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “As this stuff starts to pile up, it really starts to hurt.”

Garant mentioned that the lobbying group New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials, which represents mayors and small municipalities across New York, will be pushing back against this line in the budget come February. 

Other groups like Suffolk County Village Officials Association will also work with NYCOM and Suffolk legislators to lobby Suffolk’s representatives in Albany about the dire consequences of this aspect of the governor’s budget proposal. 

“As this stuff starts to pile up, it really starts to hurt.”

— Margot Garant

“The governor’s proposal hurts the village citizens the most in villages that have the largest budgetary needs,” said Richard Smith, president of SCVOA. “The governor continues to add to village responsibilities and costs, but simultaneously wants to force villages to increase their local property taxes to pay for the same village services as were provided last year.”

While schools are gearing up to present next year’s budgets, some districts on Long Island would also see less state aid if the governor’s proposed budget passes. Shoreham-Wading River School District would see an incremental increase in foundation aid of $16,000 but a fall in expense-driven aids resulting in a net decrease of $77,000 in state aid. Superintendent Gerard Poole said the district expects to advocate for more funds.

“Last year, as a result of our advocacy and the support of our local legislators, our final foundation aid allocation was about $100,000 higher than what the executive budget originally proposed,” Poole said. “It is also important to note that an additional aid category, building aid, which was not included in recent media reports is in fact projected to increase for our district next year due to the completion of capital projects.” 

The New York State Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees must review the proposed budget before the state Legislature acts on the appropriation bills. Town officials and others said they will continue to advocate for more aid for their districts.

Camille Pabon, Marie Delia and Lorian Prince of the family owned Del Fiore Italian Market in Rocky Point. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr and Sara-Megan Walsh

The current government shutdown became the longest running federal closure in the nation’s history as of Jan. 12 — and there’s no clear end in sight. It’s estimated more than 800,000 government employees are either furloughed or are continuing to work without pay. By this publication’s press time, the shutdown has been ongoing for 34 days.

Several North Shore businesses, residents and other nonprofit organizations are doing what they can to aid those individuals who are anxiously awaiting their next paycheck.

Prism Wellness Salon and Spa, St. James

Janine Argila, center, the owner of Prism salon in St. James with two employees. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Janine Arguila, owner of Prism Wellness Salon and Spa in St. James, announced Jan. 16 via Facebook that her business would offer free haircuts to federal employees with a valid government ID through Feb. 26, or when the shutdown ends.

“We cannot end the shutdown but we can help those affected!” reads the Jan. 16 post. 

Additional notification was also sent out via email to her clients on the company’s mailing list. Arguila said the public’s reaction to her offer was immediate and overwhelming. 

“We’d had people saying, ‘Thank you so much, I’m not even a government employee and I think this is amazing’,” she said, noting thousands of likes and shares the announcement quickly garnered. 

The salon owner said she came up with the idea after reading a friend’s social media posts about how her husband serves with the U.S. Coast Guard and was not sure when he would be able to subsist without a paycheck.

“A lot of people are government employees, or it’s their family, and we don’t even realize it,” Arguila said. 

The first to accept the offer of a free haircut was a regular customer, according to Arguila, who thanked her after stating that her husband is a government employee and is working unpaid. She expects her salon will provide free services to many more as the shutdown drags on. 

“I’ve had my success is by giving back,” the owner said. “My mother taught me to do the right thing no matter what it is. It’s always worked for me in every way.” 

Del Fiore Italian Market, Rocky Point

Del Fiore Italian Market in Rocky Point. Photo by Kyle Barr

Del Fiore Italian Market, located on Broadway in the Rocky Point Business District, starting Jan. 17, gave out two-person meals to government employees throughout the weekend. By Jan. 22, the store had gifted meals to more than 200 people, some of whom traveled from as far as Nassau County. Each meal included a box of fresh cheese ravioli, a quart of meat or
marinara sauce and a loaf of bread valued at $18. The owners said they gave out close to $800 worth of food. After the weekend the business gave out bags of house-cooked pasta until Jan. 24.

“When something’s wrong, people eat, so when something’s wrong you give people food — that’s what we do, we Italian people,” said Camille Pabon, who helps run the family-owned Del Fiore with her sister Lorian Prince. 

While its costly to supply these meals, Pabon said other patrons were quick in supplying the business some money to help pay for the lost revenue. She received promises from those who accepted free food now would come back later as full-paying patrons once the shutdown is over.

Sassy Salads & Bagel Lady Cafe, Shoreham

Sassy Salads & Bagel Cafe. Photo by Kyle Barr

Those who give food now know there is no hint yet when the shutdown could be over.

Linda Winter, the longtime owner of Sassy Salads & Bagel Lady Cafe, located in the Shoreham Plaza along Route 25A, announced Jan. 17 she would be giving out a complementary dozen bagels to those government employees who walked through her door. Over the weekend, Winter said more than 80 individuals came in for the bagels. Overall, the store handed out over 100 bags of a dozen bagels. She was astounded by the number of people who came in looking for help.

“We didn’t refuse anybody,” Winter said.

The deluge of people coming in for bagels was so much she said there were wait times for regular customers as they needed to keep baking new batches over the weekend. On Jan. 24 she announced she would have to limit the bagels to five dozen per day as well as limit the area to Mount Sinai through Wading River, though including Ridge.

“Here I am nearly 29 years in this location and the community has supported me for all those years, so I felt it was the right gesture,” Winter said. “I can imagine it’s a scary time for them … they are singled out, and they need to know people care about them and what’s going on in their lives right now.”

More organizations offer help to government workers in need

Other businesses and organizations from Port Jefferson to Huntington have been stepping up to offer aid to those government workers affected by shutdown: 

Wahlburgers on Route 347 in Port Jefferson. Photo by Alex Petroski

* Blue Salon and Spa in Stony Brook is advertising a free blowout and haircut to those affected by the shutdown.

* On Jan. 18 Wahlburgers in Port Jeff Station announced it is offering a free burger, side and soft drink to individuals who could provide a government identification, ending sometime around Jan. 23. 

Manager Adam Subbiondo said they have already seen more than 300 people ask for a meal since they started providing them.

“You can only imagine what its like to not get paid and go on to live their lives with their families, mortgages and kids,” he said.

* Teachers Federal Credit Union announced Jan. 14 a number of programs to assist those affected, including being able to skip payments on credit cards and loans up to $5,000 for immediate needs. 

*Other organizations like the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been giving out free pet food for those who can’t afford it.

United Studios Martial Arts Academy in Rocky Point. Photo by Kyle Barr

* The United Studios Progressive Martial Arts studio, with locations in both Rocky Point and Port Jefferson Station, is having a food drive over the weekend to help those affected. 

“We believe, as martial artists, in humanitarian efforts,” said Blake Wolfskill, the chief instructor at the Rocky Point location. “We see people suffering and we have to do something.”

* The Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs, which represents more than 20 boat and watercraft organizations, announced Jan. 10 a gift card donation drive to help the U.S. Coast Guard personnel who safeguard the waters of the Long Island Sound. In addition to gift cards, the boating council will also accept monetary donations or check made out to “Chief Petty Officer Association” with Shut Down Fund CT-NY in the memo line and mailed to:  P.O. Box 2124, Halesite, NY 11743.

*This post was updated to reflect Winter’s new bagel policy

Police are searching for two women who allegedly used a stolen credit card in South Setauket. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department
Two women allegedly used a stolen credit card in South Setauket. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate two women who allegedly used a stolen credit card at two locations in South Setauket last month.

A woman reported her wallet containing cash and three credit cards was stolen at Whole Foods Market in Lake Grove Dec. 8. Later that day, two women allegedly used credit cards from the wallet to purchase or attempt to purchase approximately $9,000 in Apple products at Best Buy and Target on Pond Path in South Setauket.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at www.tipsubmit.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

State legislators recently voted on legislation to reform voting in New York.

Assembly members had voting on their minds.

Both houses passed a package of bills Jan. 14 which are currently awaiting the signatures of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Legislators said the goal of the bills is to reform the state’s current electoral process to make voting easier and to reduce the influence of special interest in elections, according to a press release from the office of state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

“Our vote to eliminate barriers will make voting more accessible to all state residents.”

— Steve Englebright

“It’s a good day for democracy in New York,” Englebright said in the release. “Our vote to eliminate barriers will make voting more accessible to all state residents.”

One piece of legislation will establish a nine-day early voting period starting in the 2019 general election. The period will include two weekends to allow voters to cast their votes in person, also before any primary or special election. This is what 35 other states and Washington, D.C., already do.

“New York is no longer behind the rest of the country,” said state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport).

Gaughran said many residents have told him that there have been times they have been unable to vote due to being stuck in the city with work or with inclement weather delaying trains. He added early voting would benefit all parties and races.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said in a statement if the bills become law there will not only be more time to cast votes but more clarity on primary day as well as more transparency.

“In today’s society, with so many people working long hours, combined with active lifestyles, the system needs to change to make it easier for individuals to participate in elections,” LaValle said in a release.

Another bill will change absentee voting no earlier than November 2021. Currently, a voter can cast an absentee ballot if they know they will be unable to do so Election Day due to physical illness or disability. An amendment to the New York State Constitution would allow for “no excuse” absentee voting.

“In today’s society, with so many people working long hours, combined with active lifestyles, the system needs to change to make it easier for individuals to participate in elections.”

— Ken LaValle

State legislators also passed bills to combine the state primary with the federal non-presidential primary. If Cuomo signs it into law, these primaries will take place in June. Gaughran said the move would save taxpayer dollars, and it ensures the NYS election laws comply with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which helps in the efficiency of military members serving overseas and citizens who live abroad voting in U.S. elections. Gaughran said he thinks combining primaries will help those who are currently overseas vote as easily for local offices as well as federal.

Another piece of legislation will allow voter registration to be allowed up to Election Day instead of 10 days or before. New York State voters will need to vote on the act as a constitutional amendment. Another bill would automatically transfer a voter’s registration when they move within New York state instead of residents needing to update when they move from one county to another.

The state legislators approved a bill that will require voter registration forms to include a space for preregistering for those 16 and 17 years of age. LaValle said, as a former teacher and principal, the bill was a meaningful one for him for young people to stay involved in the political process.

“It is my hope that when the measures become law, more people will take advantage of the opportunity to vote, allow more of voices to be heard, and thereby strengthen our government in the process,” LaValle said.

Both houses passed legislation to restrict the LLC loophole, which allows LLCs to make campaign contributions as individuals, and enables one person or corporation that owns multiple LLCs to funnel donations to a single candidate or committee. If Cuomo signs the bill, LLC campaign contributions will be limited to a $5,000 aggregate — the same limit that exists for corporations — and would require the disclosure of all owners of the LLC, whether direct or indirect.

By Bill Landon

Centereach trailed Comsewogue’s boys basketball team from the opening tip off and closed within 4 points late in the game, but the Warriors defense was up to the task, holding off the late surging Cougars for a 71-65 victory on the road Jan. 17. 

Comsewogue junior Michael McGuire seemingly couldn’t miss from long range as the young man nailed seven triples and a free throw for a team high of 22 points. Teammate Milan Johnson netted a pair of treys, 4 field goals and 4 from the line putting up a total of 18; and teammate Liam Gray tacked on 17. Centereach junior forward Matt Robbert topped the scoring chart for the Cougars throwing down 9 field goals and netting 4 from the line.

With their third win in a row, Comsewogue improves to 5-3 in league and 7-5 overall. The Warriors continued their road tour against Deer Park Jan. 21 and were back on their home turf Jan. 23 hosting Bellport at 5:45 p.m. With the loss, Centereach dropped to 4-5 in league 7-5 overall, and were back in action at home Jan. 23.

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