Times of Smithtown

Hundreds of mourners gathered in Smithtown May 25 to say goodbye to one of New York’s bravest who was taken too soon.

A funeral was held Friday for New York City Police officer John Martinez,  of Hauppauge, who was killed in an upstate car crash earlier this week. One lane of East Main Street was closed as a full police motorcade escorted Martinez’s body from Saint James Funeral Home to the funeral Mass celebrated at St. Patrick R.C. Church.

Martinez was killed in a single-car crash with fellow NYPD officer and Huntington Station resident Michael Colangelo, 31, a single-car crash May 20 in Shandaken. New York State police said Martinez was driving a 2018 Maserati southbound on Oliveria Road at approximately 11:23 p.m. when he lost control of the vehicle, striking a large tree and flipping the car. The vehicle came to a stop on its roof.

Colangelo and Martinez were pronounced dead at the scene. A third passenger was transported to Albany Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, according to state police spokesman Trooper Steven Nevel.

Colangelo was a member of the NYPD’s canine unit who had married his sweetheart, Katherine Berger, earlier that day at the Full Moon Resort in the Hudson Valley. Martinez worked for the NYPD’s 84th Precinct’s detective squad.

The men had departed from Full Moon Resort, but their planned destination was not known, according to Nevel. He said the stretch of Oliveria Road is very rural, curves and has no street lighting. State police said based on skid marks left on the roadway that the vehicle was traveling well in excess of the posted 40 mph speed limit at the time of the accident.

“We don’t know the exact speed they were going at this time,” Nevel said. “We are looking to get that information from the black box of the Maserati.”

State police said they did not know if drugs or alcohol may have played a role in the deadly crash, but an investigation remains ongoing. An autopsy of the driver was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 21, but the
results would not be immediately available.

“We’ve interviewed several people at the wedding reception, and everyone was very distraught,” Nevel said.

Colangelo and his wife had planned to travel to Costa Rica for their honeymoon, according to their www.honeyfund.com site, which read, “We’ve lived together quite a while with all our pots and pans, and as we don’t need very many home goods we’ve got another plan. We know it’s not traditional, but it would be a lot of fun, to have some items on our wedding list that will help us catch some sun.”

Anyone who may have witnessed the accident or has information on the events of May 20 is encouraged to contact the state police’s Catskill barracks Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 518-622-8600.

 

St. James artist Arline Goldstein stands with a piece of her work in Studio 455. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Among the empty storefronts, cracked sidewalk and blighted buildings along Lake Avenue, local artist and longtime St. James resident Arline Goldstein drives down the road and pictures something better, something that will draw crowds and make the area vibrant with art and music.

“When I ride down Lake Avenue, I don’t see [the blight], I see boutiques and cafés and art galleries,” Goldstein said. “I use my imagination.”

In a new twist on St. James revitalization, local artists are putting forth the idea of creating an art district along Lake Avenue in an effort to make St. James a hot spot for art and culture. Goldstein presented the idea to Town of Smithtown officials at the May 8 board meeting.

“It’s in my heart for artists to show their work, and for others to see that work,” she said. “This project is the culmination of all my ideas about art.”

When I ride down Lake Avenue, I don’t see [the blight], I see boutiques and cafés and art galleries. I use my imagination.”
– Arline Goldstein

In April, Golsdstein and Eric Neitzel, the owner of DeBarbieri Associates Real Estate agency, went up and down Lake Avenue from Moriches Road to Woodlawn Avenue. Together, they counted nearly 20 empty storefronts along the approximately .8 mile stretch of road. Nietzel hopes the project could not only increase interest in the arts, but bring in restaurants, retail and other businesses.

“I think we could make a prosperous little downtown here in St. James,” Neitzel said.

The artists involved in the project believe this project could be a way to bring business back to downtown St. James.

“I think it is one thing that will help save this town,” photo artist Jack Ader said. “It has been proven all over the country that when places get together and create an art district, it revitalizes the town, it helps the local businesses.”

On June 12, Goldstein and some of her compatriots will meet with the town board and town planning department in a work group so she can fully explain what she has in mind. She said that if all goes well she hopes they could form a committee to truly start work on creating plans for the project. Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) has already shown support for the idea.

“In my opinion it’s a great idea for St. James, and I think it could really work well,” Wehrheim said. “Once it gets advertised, and people come and see it, word of mouth goes around and it really attracts people to it.”

Smithtown historian Bradley Harris said there are a number of historical underpinnings of art in St. James, including the St. James Calderone Theater off Lake Avenue that was built in 1929 and hosted many early vaudeville shows.

“There were a couple of individuals, artists and musicians who made a big impact in the area,” Harris said. “We’re still rediscovering that history in what was devoted to the arts in the past.”

“It has been proven all over the country that when places get together and create an art district, it revitalizes the town, it helps the local businesses.”
– Jack Ader

Even with the excitement she’s seen from the community and town board, Goldstein said she knows that creating an art district could take quite a long time. In March, the Village of Patchogue named Terry Street an art and culture district, but the revitalization of the area into the artistic hot spot it is today took many years. Not only that, but making Lake Avenue an art district would require not a small amount of legal commitment. It would mean a total rezoning of the area, and Goldstein predicted there would likely need to be incentives for businesses to open along the road and for landlords to upgrade buildings while not increasing rents.

Wehrheim said the St. James revitalization project, slated to begin this month, has been pushed back approximately a year to allow the installation of dry sewer mains at the same time. The revitalization plan calls for the renovations of Lake Avenue from Moriches Road to Woodlawn Avenue. This will include new sidewalks, planting of trees, installation of street lighting, curbs, concrete gutters and crosswalks, driveway aprons, asphalt, driveway aprons, benches and other decorative amenities.

Goldstein said she believed that if all goes according to plan and everything from the sewers to the new sidewalks are installed in time, then this project could really get underway.

Natalie Weinstein, the owner of Natalie Weinstein Design Associates and Studio 455 Art Gallery in St. James, said they are not going to wait for the sewers and revitalization to move forward. The artists are already looking to create events to promote art on Lake Avenue this summer, at the St. James gazebo.

“The art district will not be able to occur before we have the sewers hookup,” Weinstein said. “While we are waiting for that we are not sitting on our duffs. We’re doing exciting things to excite people and help spread the word.”

Russell Burke, a professor of biology at Hofstra University, shows how newly state-mandated terrapin excluder devices keep turtles out while crabs can still get in. Photo by Kyle Barr

It has been a slow crawl saving Long Island’s turtles, but local conservation groups are hoping new state regulations will speed up the process.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Long Island environmental groups gathered May 23 at the Seatuck Environmental Center in Islip to celebrate new rules requiring crab cages — used in Long Island’s coastal waters including many of the bays, harbors and rivers that enter Long Island Sound — to have terrapin excluder devices on all entrances. As carnivores, terrapins are attracted to bait fish used in commercial, or what’s known as “Maryland style” crab traps or “pots.” As a result, male and female turtles of all sizes push their way through the entrance funnels and end up drowning.

John Turner, a conservation policy advocate for the Seatuck Environmental Association, shows the North Shore areas where turtles are getting caught and drowning in crab cages. Photo by Kyle Barr

“With each and every season these traps are not required to have TEDs, there are likely hundreds of terrapins that are drowning,” said John Turner, the conservation policy advocate for the Seatuck Environmental Association. “To me, one of the signs of a real civilized society is how we treat other lifeforms. We haven’t treated terrapins very well.”

He said in Stony Brook Harbor alone there are dozens, maybe hundreds of terrapins that will spend the winter in the mud, emerging once the water runs up high enough. Turner said many of the North Shore areas that are home to these turtles, like Setauket Harbor, Conscience Bay,

Port Jefferson Harbor, Mount Sinai Harbor and Nissequogue River, play a key role in preserving the species.

“In contrast to where I am in South Jersey, I can go by the canals and I can see a dozen [terrapin] heads bobbing up and down,” said James Gilmore, the director of marine resources at the state DEC. “Here, it’s very rare to see one. Hopefully these new rules will help us see more.”

Gilmore said the DEC began working on changing state regulations in 2013 but have known long before there was a problem.

Carl LoBue, director of the Conservancy’s Ocean Program in New York, said it was in the late 1990’s he’d witnessed recreational crab traps in Stony Brook Harbor. One day he lifted a cage out of the water while trying to move his landlord’s boat and saw it was filled with trapped terrapins. Two were still alive, but five had already drowned.

“With each and every season these traps are not required to have TEDs, there are likely hundreds of terrapins that are drowning.”

— John Turner

“I’m sure the crabber wasn’t [trying] to kill turtles,” LoBue said. “But when I looked across the bay at the 60 or something crab traps this person had set, I was crushed thinking of the terrapins drowning at that very moment.”

In the early 2000s terrapins became a popular meal in New York, but the harvest of those turtles led to a massive decrease in population, especially the diamondback terrapin, which was identified as a species of greatest conservation need in the 2015 New York State Wildlife Action Plan. In September 2017 the DEC passed regulations banning the commercial harvest of diamondbacks.

Terrapin population has slowly increased since then, but researchers say there’s still little known about the population, like life expectancy or habits while in water. The species has a very slow birth rate, with low local clutches of 10 or so eggs — sometimes only one or two of which hatch and mature.

Russell Burke, a professor of biology at Hofstra University, said terrapins could live very long lives, pointing to older specimens he has seen living to 60 years old, but he estimated some could be twice that age. While Burke said it’s hard to estimate the total population on Long Island, he said in Jamaica Bay alone, he knows there are approximately 3,500 adult females.

Terrapin, or turtles, are carnivores, attracted to fish typically used to catch crab. Photo by Kyle Barr

The TED devices are 4 3/4 inches by 1 3/4 inches, an exact measurement, to ensure that while crabs can get through, turtles cannot. According to Kim McKown, the Marine Invertebrate and Protected Resources Unit Leader at the state DEC, the small, plastic TEDs cost $10 for the three needed to secure a normal crab trap. The cost exponentially increases depending on how many traps a fisherman has, with some owning up to 1,000 traps.

Turner said his organization used its own funds and purchased 5,000 TEDs and gifted them to the DEC. The state agency is giving them to Long Island crab fishermen on a first come, first serve basis.

Commercial crab fisherman Fred Chiofolo, who hunts in Brookhaven Town along the South Shore, experimented with TEDs on his own for years before the regulations were passed. He said the devices even improved the number of crabs he caught.

“It made a significant difference with the pots that had them versus the pots that didn’t,” Chiofolo said. “Last year I put them in every pot I had — about 200 of them. I’m not going to lie it’s a lot of work to put them in, but we don’t want to catch the turtle. I don’t want them, and [the TED] does keep them out.”

Smithtown Vape and Smoke Shop. Photo from Google Maps

Suffolk County Police arrested a teen May 23 for selling e-liquid nicotine to a minor at a Smithtown business.

In response to community complaints, 4th Precinct Crime Section officers conducted an investigation into the sale of e-liquid nicotine at nine businesses in Smithtown, Saint James, Nesconset and Ronkonkoma May 23 from 5 to 7 p.m.

A 16-year-old male employed at Suffolk Vape and Smoke Shop, located on Terry Road in Smithtown, was arrested for selling e-liquid nicotine to a minor.

The following businesses complied and refused the sale of e-liquid nicotine to minors:

  • Village Kava Bar and Smoke Shop, located on Maple Avenue in Smithtown
  • Aroma Smoke Shop, located at on East Main Street in Smithtown
  • S & V Convenience Store, located on West Main Street in Smithtown
  • Saint James Vape Shop, located at on Lake Avenue in St. James
  • VaporFi, located on Smithtown Boulevard in Nesconset
  • Citgo, located on Hawkins Avenue in Ronkonkoma
  • Best Express, located on Ronkonkoma Avenue in Ronkonkoma
  • Lucky Food Mart and Smoke shop, located on Lake Avenue in Saint James

The 16-year-old was charged with second-degree unlawfully dealing with a child and violating the Suffolk County code regulating the sale of e-cigarettes, which includes e-liquid nicotine. He was issued a desk appearance ticket and scheduled for arraignment at a later date.

The St. James firehouse on Route 25A/Lake Avenue. Photo from Google Maps

A vote that may determine the future fate of a St. James firehouse has been set for June 19.

The board of commissioners of the St. James Fire District voted to move forward with holding a June 19 public referendum on the sale of the Route 25A firehouse to the St. James Fire Department, a nonprofit organization that is made up of the volunteer firefighters and EMS workers.

The white, two-story firehouse at the intersection of Lake Avenue and Route 25A was purchased nearly five years ago by the St. James Fire District — which consists of elected officials who are responsible for setting taxes to provide and maintain the buildings and fire and EMS service equipment the volunteers use. The district’s hope was that purchase of the building would help reduce its annual expenses, as it was paying rent for space to the St. James Fire Department.

“Given the current state of the building and the fire district’s needs, maintaining ownership of this property is no longer a fiscally prudent option,” Commissioner Ed Springer said.

The Route 25A firehouse, built in 1922, has not been significantly renovated or updated in more than 50 years. The fire district said the antiquated building cannot house a majority of its current fire engines due to height restrictions of the garage bay, so only one truck operates out of the location.

Given the current state of the building and the fire district’s needs, maintaining ownership of this property is no longer a fiscally prudent option.”
– Ed Springer

Under the original contract of sale, there was a clause that stipulated the St. James Fire Department would be given the first chance to repurchase the building should the district put it up for sale. This contract has been upheld by the New York State Supreme Court and the state attorney general’s office.

“Selling it back to the department would carry a number of benefits: the department, as they are under different laws and regulations than the fire district, would be able to expedite repairs and improvements to the facility, through the use of its budget,” Springer said.

If the building’s sale is approved June 19, there will be no tax rate impact on fire district residents.

The proposed sale has led to widespread concern through the St. James community about the future of the firehouse and whether it would still be an active station. Earlier this year, Head of the Harbor Mayor Douglas Dahlgard voiced concerns about the district’s proposed plans to consolidate all operations out of its Jefferson Avenue headquarters. Dahlgard said he feared it would significantly increase response times for his residents, placing them at increased risk, as that station is farther away.

Bill Kearney, vice chairmen of the St. James Fire District board, said the goal of possible consolidation would be to improve emergency response times by bringing key personnel together at one location.

To better assess the community’s needs and concerns, the fire district launched an online survey asking residents, taxpayers and business operations in St. James and Head of the Harbor to anonymously provide feedback on their fire rescue services by April 30. A preliminary draft of the survey’s responses has been given to the fire commissioners, according to spokeswoman Jessica Novins, but had not been released to the public as of May 22. The fire commissioners have not had time to review the preliminary draft yet, according to Novins.

A community forum for residents within the fire district will be held Wednesday, May 30, at 7 p.m. where information will be presented about the sale, future plans for the Route 25A building will be addressed and to answer any questions regarding the referendum. The location of the May 30 meeting is to be determined by May 24 and then posted on the fire district’s website at www.stjamesfd.org.

The Irish Viking Pub in St. James has stood vacant for nearly a decade. Photo by Kyle Barr

The doors have been closed and the windows shuttered on the Irish Viking pub on Lake Avenue in St. James for nearly a decade. Town of Smithtown officials are considering turning the eyesore into a parking lot.

Smithtown Town Board voted unanimously at its May 8 meeting to hire John S. Goess Realty Appraisal Inc. to
appraise the value of 369 Lake Ave. property to see the viability of turning it into a municipal parking lot.

“That building’s been vacant for years,” Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) said. “I have to be honest, even when the place was open the place was an eyesore. It’s really time for this thing to become something better.”

Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said that if the property owners agree to sell at the appraised value the town will look to turn the site into a parking lot that would include a center pavilion that could be used by local chamber or civics groups for many different kinds of events.

Additional parking is a key part of the revitalization efforts and is one of the main issues our residents want addressed, along with speeding and safety.”

– Ed Wehrheim

“This will help generate tourism, revenue and aid in the goal to encourage residents to shop local,” Garguilo said in an email.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said that the town will wait for a return on the appraisal before moving forward with contacting the property owners. He also said the parking lot could become an aspect of the St. James revitalization project, which is set to begin work early next year after the town installs a sewer system along Lake Avenue.

“Additional parking is a key part of the revitalization efforts and is one of the main issues our residents want
addressed, along with speeding and safety,” Wehrheim said in a statement. “By providing both the parking space and a venue that can be used for small business, markets and showcasing the arts, we can be proactive in our efforts to ensure that Lake Avenue will be an epicenter for arts and entertainment, while maintaining its quaint, historic charm.”

Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski said that he expects the appraisal to be completed in three to four weeks.

Nowick said the town hopes to get a grant from the county in order to build the parking lot, if the town wants to acquire the property.

There are two municipal parking lots in the area. One is down the road from the Irish Viking property used by the St. James Long Island Rail Road train station. There is a second municipal parking lot behind Spage’s Pharmacy, hiding behind the front facing businesses along Lake Avenue. Nowick said there is a definite need for more parking along that road.

I do like the idea of parking, and we want people to walk to places and it is in the center of town. We still want to have more businesses to come in.”

— Kerry Maher-Weisse

“Cars often line up on both sides of the road where two cars in opposite lanes cannot pass through after that,” Nowick said. “You really cannot go through, and if you have a truck trying to get through, because there are trucks that need to deliver to King Kullen, it’s nearly impossible.”

Kerry Maher-Weisse, the president of the Community Association of Greater St. James said that while she likes the idea of a municipal parking lot, she also believes that Lake Avenue needs more restaurants to make the area more attractive to both businesses and customers.

“Here we are having people who are very interested to open up business in town, and [the Irish Viking property] would be a great place for a burger joint in the middle of town,” Maher-Weisse said. “I do like the idea of parking, and we want people to walk to places and it is in the center of town. We still want to have more businesses to come in.”

The town is required to buy the property at the appraised value. If the property owners decide they don’t want to sell, Nowick said there is not much the town could do and the only way the town would apply for eminent domain is if the aging building is posing a danger to the community. It would then take several hearings involving the owner.

“He’s still paying his taxes and it’s his property,” she said.

Suffolk County police Capt. Kevin Williams. Photo by Kyle Barr

A Suffolk police officer offered startling insight into threats of school violence within the Smithtown community.

Suffolk County Police Department Capt. Kevin Williams gave his first presentation of what is expected to be many to Town of Smithtown officials at their May 8 town board meeting. As the town’s new liaison to the 4th Precinct, he gave an overall picture of what threats police are dealing with at area schools and in the community.

Graphic showing the 4th Precincts business investigations and arrests in 60 days prior to May 8. Graphic by TBR News Media

Williams said that since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, police have seen an increase in school-related incidents within the areas of Commack, Hauppauge, Nesconset and Smithtown.

“If you’ve seen it in the media, there’s probably one a day, threats from students against the school stating they are going to do a Parkland-like shooting or Columbine-type thing,” he said.

Williams said the increased cases of threats of school violence are not unique to Smithtown but are occurring in other precincts across the county. He advised parents to make a point of talking with their children about what may be inappropriate things to say and how they can raise a red flag with police. All threats are taken seriously, according to Williams, and are fully investigated taking a “decent” amount of time.

Suffolk police have been reaching out to and engaging in conversation with those school districts who have chosen to hire armed guards, including Hauppauge School District, following the Florida shooting, according to Williams.

“One of the most important things we all agreed is the people they hire are ex-law enforcement,” he said. “Highly trained professionals who have been out there and dealt with dangerous situations like this.”

He indicated a second school district within the Town of Smithtown is considering hiring armed guards in the future. As this becomes more common, Williams said cops are working to make sure they can quickly and easily identify armed guards in case of an active shooter situation.

Opiod overdoses reported by the the 4th Precinct. Graphic by TBR News Media

In April, the police department reported violent crimes and drug overdoses were all heading in the right direction in the first quarter of 2018. This trend has continued over the past 30 days in Smithtown.

Williams reported drug overdoses due to opioid use, both fatal and nonfatal, have decreased by 25 percent compared to the same time period last year. He credited this to the agency’s 852-NARC (6272) hotline, which receives approximately 12 to 15 phone calls a month from residents providing tips on drug dealers and sales. The officer said the 4th Precinct’s narcotic detectives executed 14 search warrants in January alone and made numerous arrests.

Over the last month, Williams said robberies are down, with one in 2018 compared to four over the same period of time in 2017, as well as a decrease in residential burglaries. The biggest culprit of home invasions remains unsecured homes or buildings, he said.

“It’s summer and people want to leave their windows open, but a screen is not protection,” he warned.

One exception to the decrease in crime is in the area of commercial burglaries. In the past 30 days, there have been four instances compared to none during the same period of 2017, according to Williams. One recent case involved an individual who attempted to pry open the back door of St. Thomas More R.C. Church in Hauppauge.

The main cast of ‘Willy Wonka Jr.’

By Heidi Sutton

If your children have a sweet tooth and love live theater, why not head over to Smithtown and treat them to a scrumptious production of “Willy Wonka Jr.”? The Kids Performing for Kids show is currently in production at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts through June 24, and offers the perfect opportunity for young actors to hone their craft.

Directed by Christine Boehm, the play follows the original story closely, with all the wonderful music and unique characters (minus Slugworth) from the 1971 classic that we have come to love along with a few nods to the 2005 film (think nutty squirrels).

Charlie finds the last golden ticket.

Based on the 1964 novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl, the show stars Willy Wonka (Alex Mahr), the famous candy man who has not been seen or heard from since he closed his factory to the public years ago, even though Wonka sweets are still being produced. Now he reappears to stage a contest by hiding golden tickets in five of his chocolate bars. Whoever finds a golden ticket will receive a free tour of the Wonka factory along with a lifetime supply of chocolate. But Wonka has an ulterior motive. He would like to retire and is looking for a child to take over his candy empire.

As each golden ticket is found, the audience is introduced to the winner — Augustus Gloop (Dylan O’Leary), Veruca Salt (Cassidy Torns), Violet Beauregarde (Erika Hinson) and Mike Teavee (Michael Puglisi) in one of the funniest scenes in the show, revealing all their little quirks, nasty habits and bad manners as their overindulging parents cringe.

When Charlie Bucket (Olivia Cox), a poor young boy from a loving family, finds the last ticket, he picks his Grandpa Joe (Logan O’Leary) to accompany him on the tour. As the afternoon progresses, each child misbehaves in the factory and is led away by the Oompa Loompas until only Charlie is left. Will he receive the keys to the factory or be punished for sampling the Fizzy Lifting Drinks?

The cast, ranging in age from 6 to 18, does an incredible job portraying the story and its overlying message to think positive, and the many numbers, especially “The Candy Man,” “Pure Imagination,” “Oompa Loompa” and “I Want It Now,” are executed beautifully. Costumes by Ronald Green III are top notch, from the green wigs on the Oompa Loompas to Willy Wonka’s top hat and coat. Designed by Mike Mucciolo, the dazzling set, complete with lollipops and candy mushrooms with “whipped cream,” are right out of Wonka’s pure imagination. Get your golden ticket today!

Running time is 2 hours and 20 minutes. Candy and water will be sold during intermission and booster seats are available. Meet Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located on the back of the program.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, located at 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present “Willy Wonka Jr.” through June 24. Children’s theater continues with “Pinkalicious The Musical” from July 14 to Aug. 19 and “Mary Poppins” from Sept. 15 to Oct. 28. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

All photos by Danielle Nigro

 

A new playground is being installed at Gaynor Park in St. James. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Kyle Barr

Town of Smithtown officials will pay out more than $13,000 in past-due overtime pay and offer training to settle labor disputes involving more than 25 town employees.

The Smithtown Town Board approved settlements at the May 8 town board meeting for two labor grievances with unionized town park employees related to overtime pay and hiring a third-party contractor installing its new playgrounds.

Currently, Gibbs Pond Park in Nesconset, along with Gaynor Park and Veterans Memorial Park in St. James are receiving long-awaited renovations including the installation of new playground equipment. When the town bought the equipment in September 2017, it also hired the installation services of Minnesota-based Landscape Structures Inc. The members of Civil Service Employees Association local union Chapter 852 brought the labor grievance to the town board claiming that said town employees were not notified of the hiring of the third-party company and having an outside company install the playground equipment was a violation of the workers’ collective bargaining rights.

Despite repeated attempts, a representative from the union chapter could not be contacted by press time.

 [I]f somebody is ever hurt on that playground equipment the town is covered in terms of liability because certified people installed them, our guys were not certified.
– Ed Wehrheim

Some of the playground work included groundwork and removal of old playground equipment. The town paid Landscape Structures $144,000 for the installation of the Gibbs Pond equipment, $87,050 for Gaynor Park and $94,000 for Veterans Memorial Park for a total of more than $325,000.

Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski said that the notification of hiring the third-party installer was run through the town’s Department of Parks, Buildings & Grounds.

“For the type of playground that was purchased, it requires a certified installer from the company,” he said.

Town officials said that the playground equipment required workers who had Certified Playground Safety Inspector licenses, which are the National Recreation and Park Association produced certifications giving lessons on playground safety issues such as hazard identification, equipment specifications, surfacing requirements and risk management methods, according to NRPA’s website.

“We put that out to bid to furnish and install that equipment,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “The reason we did that is federal standards have changed in what we are required to do for liability purposes in playgrounds. In this case, when [the third party] installs, the equipment is warranteed. So, if somebody is ever hurt on that playground equipment the town is covered in terms of liability because certified people installed them, our guys were not certified.”

Under the settlement, Smithtown officials agreed with the union that, starting in 2019, the town will provide an opportunity for any town employee who wishes to get licensed to take the necessary classes and become certified. Wehrheim said the town will cover for any associated expenses.

Officials also agreed that in the future the town discuss whether any new playground equipment or playground maintenance will be done by town employees or a third-party directly with the chapter president or other chapter officers.

The town also reached an agreement with parks employees on overtime equalization.

In 2017, unionized workers brought to the attention of the town board, problems with the equalization of overtime pay of parks department employees in 2016. Under current agreement, member employees are allowed an overtime equalization equal to 80 percent of the employee who received the highest overtime pay. Jakubowski said that a mistake in the parks department meant several employees were not given those funds.

The town will pay out the sum total of $13,775 divided among 25 employees who did not receive their proper overtime wages.

Huntington Station resident Michael Colangelo in uniform. Photo from Facebook

Two off-duty New York City police officers from Long Island were killed in an upstate car crash Sunday.

New York City Police Department said in a press statement Huntington Station resident Michael Colangelo, 31, and Hauppauge resident John Martinez, 39, were killed in a single-car crash May 20. Colangelo was assigned to the NYPD’s canine unit while Martinez worked in the 84th Precinct’s detective squad.

New York state police responded to reports of a fatal motor vehicle accident on Oliveria Road in Shandaken, New York at approximately 11:23 p.m. May 20. Police determined that Martinez was driving a 2018 Maserati when the vehicle left the roadway and struck a large tree, before flipping and coming to a stop on it’s roof. Both Colangelo, a passenger, and Martinez, were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. A third passenger was transported to Albany Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

Watch TBR News Media for more to come on this breaking news story.

Correction: Updated 2:38 p.m. May 21:  The NYPD officer killed is John Martinez, not James as first reported. 

Social

9,202FansLike
1,074FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe