Times of Smithtown

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Photo from Metro

Though it goes hardly noticed, the Town of Smithtown’s curb cut program has made more than a dent in the last 20 years.

Kelly Brown, the housing rehabilitation administrator in the town’s planning department, has been supervising the creation of several hundred curb cuts throughout the town for the purposes of increasing accessibility for people who are disabled. Though she said she did not have a way to give a precise number as to how many have been created around Smithtown, she estimated the town has made more than 700 cuts in the two decades the program has been around.

“We’ve been doing the handicapped curb cuts in neighborhoods where there are sidewalks, and if the handicap ramps in an area are not up to code we redid them or where there weren’t any we put them in,” Brown said. “Some of these developments go back 40, 50, 60 years, and handicap accessibility wasn’t on the forefront like it is now.”

You need to do it, and there are handicapped people that under the Americans with Disabilities Act need to access the sidewalks properly. “

— Tom McCarthy

Current plans for curb cuts will address sidewalks between Gibbs Pond Road and Andreoli Park as well as Woodview Drive and Nichols Road. Those spaces are priorities, Brown said, so that people who use a wheelchair or are otherwise disabled can more easily access the Nesconset public park.

Town Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) is the liaison to the planning department and has overseen a lot of the cuts.

“You need to do it, and there are handicapped people that under the Americans with Disabilities Act need to access the sidewalks properly,” McCarthy said. “[Brown] does a fantastic job with it. She gets it down without any fanfare, and that’s just how [she] is.”

Though the program goes often unremarked, advocates for those with disabilities say it makes a huge difference for people who simply do not have the ability to take the step off a sidewalk. While the ADA requires all new sidewalks to be installed with disability accessible curb cuts, on older streets without them many people see their independence severely limited.

“They’re critical, they’re absolutely critical,” said Frank Krotschinsky, the director for Suffolk County’s Office for People with Disabilities. He speaks from experience, as he has used a wheelchair since he was a kid growing up in Queens. “I get annoyed if there’s no curb cut, I got to try to find a driveway to go up or risk falling out of my chair if I try to jump the curb.”

While it is a simple change to existing streets, the disabilities office director said these slopes in sidewalks do more than just help the disabled. It’s something called the “curb cut effect,” where changing things to benefit people with disabilities also helps society at large.

It’s good for not just people in wheelchairs — it’s good for people pushing baby carriages or shopping carts.” 

—  Frank Krotschinsky

“It’s good for not just people in wheelchairs — it’s good for people pushing baby carriages or shopping carts,” Krotschinsky said. “It’s all part of universal design, it’s just a good thing.”

Other curb cuts being considered for this year include Meadow Court and Whitecliff Lane; Plymouth Boulevard and Central Road; and River Road and Long Hill Drive in Smithtown. In Commack, Brown said they are considering intersections with Parnell Drive including Hollywood Drive, Concord Land and Roosevelt Drive. Whether cuts get installed depends on how much funds the planning department has before the start of the new year.

The curb cuts are funded through a Suffolk County Community Development Block Grant, the 43rd year of the program, which provides federal assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Though Brown said once the planning office received $300,000 in total block grant funds, it got just $130,000 for the current year. More than half of this year’s grant money is slated to create curb cuts.

“I don’t know how long I can continue this program,” Brown said. “I know we will have funding into next year, but we go year by year.”

Krotschinsky said the number of curb cuts have increased drastically in only a few decades in Suffolk County, and local governments should continue to fund programs that install them.

“Things have improved a lot, and are they perfect yet, no, but they have improved,” Krotschinsky said.

Visit artist Doug Reina in his Setauket studio during the tour.

By Heidi Sutton

Back by popular demand, the North Shore Artist Coalition will host its 2018 Open Studio Tour this weekend, Oct. 13 and 14, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The free event will showcase the studios of 15 award-winning artists in Setauket, Stony Brook, Port Jefferson and St. James.

Visit ceramic artist Hugh McElroy during the tour.

The coalition, whose founding members include Pam J. Brown, Jim Molloy, Doug Reina, Mary Jane van Zeijts and Nancy Bueti-Randall, started this tour three years ago with the goal of bringing more awareness to professional artists that are living in the Three Village area. 

“We felt that by coming together and pooling our talents and ideas that we could have some kind of creative impact in the community and the studio tour was one of those ideas,” said Reina in a recent interview. “It’s nice to do this with like-minded people.”

While Molloy will be unable to participate this year, the group has invited artists Al Candia, Peter Galasso, Sungsook Hong Setton, Christian Stuyvesant White, Hugh J. McElroy, Marlene Weinstein, Christine Mannone Carolan, Cindy Crowell, Leslie M. Cross, and mother/daughter duoFlo and Karen Kemp to join them for the weekend event. “It’s good that they’re on board. They’re good artists and I know they’re excited to be part of this,” said Reina.

Reached by phone, Brown said visitors to the event “can expect to see the works of an eclectic mix of professional artists who are illustrators, photographers, sculptors and painters.” Most importantly, she said, the tour will offer an intimate look into their art studio.

Sunsook Setton will give a tour of her studio during the event

That, said Reina, is what makes this event so unique. “Honestly, how often do you get to see the inner workings of an artist’s creative process?” he asked. “Usually you see the paintings hanging up [in a gallery] but you don’t really get a chance to see where the artwork gets created.” The Setauket artist added that those that “are at all interested in the technical part of art or getting into art or becoming a little bit more serious about your art” would benefit from this tour.

Finished works as well as works in progress will be on view and several artists will be giving demonstrations.

In the two previous tours, each artist welcomed 80 to 100 visitors to their studio and Brown is excited to see what the future holds. 

“People go to Gallery North, there’s the Reboli Center, the Setauket Artists, Neil Watson at The Long Island Museum is doing unbelievable things, we now have the Brick Studio, we have The Atelier at Flowerfield and then you have the Mills Pond Gallery. That’s a lot of art organizations — there’s a lot happening — so I think it’s really great for local artists to be connected as much as possible and build our community and try to build awareness for people outside of our community,” she explained. 

“We would love in the future to have all these local organizations on board so this becomes a big cultural attraction, an art destination for people who are looking to get away for the weekend,” Brown continued. “It is my hope that this event continues to grow.”

The Artist Open Studio Tour map and addresses may be found at https://www.facebook.com/NorthShoreArtistCoalition. Admission is free and refreshments will be served at some of the studios. For further information, please call 631-834-9036.

Hundreds of Commack residents came together to take pride in their community at the first Commack Day celebration in more than 30 years Saturday, Oct. 6, at Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve. 

The event was put together by two childhood friends, Jim Manikas, a Commack resident and local real estate agent, and Commack native Dean Spinato. It featured live musical performance, free food from area businesses, with a variety of vendor booths covering fitness to chocolate. 

“Thank you to everyone who attended and was a part of Commack Day,” read a post-event message on the website. “This event could not have been as successful at it was without your contributions. Your support means the world to us, so thank you.” 

A check of $3,000 from the proceeds of the event was presented as a donation to Commack Fire Department.

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Smithtown resident Aiden Eddelson, 9, in the booth with SportsNet New York’s broadcasters during the bottom of the third inning. Photo from SportsNet New York

If you asked Smithtown fourth-grader Aidan Eddelson about the New York Mets, he could tell you the batting average of most players on the team. He could tell you where most pitchers like to pitch to outfielder Brandon Nimmo and can tell you which player thinks he’s the best dancer.

“[Shortstop Amed] Rosario’s from the Dominican Republic, he bats right, and he also thinks he’s the best dancer on the Mets,” Aidan said, speaking live from SportsNet New York broadcast booth Sept. 26.

The 9-year-old fan was given the opportunity to be the SportsNet New York’s kidcaster during the bottom of the 3rd inning of the Atlanta Braves versus New York Mets game Sept. 26. The SNY Kidcaster Contest asks young Mets fans to submit a video of them broadcasting a home run made by Nimmo in a previous Mets game. Only a few days after Aidan mailed his submission, he was asked to join the station’s veteran broadcasters Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling in their booth. The professionals said they were surprised how knowledgeable young Aidan was about the team.

“I did not know that,” Hernandez said, when he heard Aidan comment on Rosario’s dancing capability.

Aidan was paying attention to the players warming up for their turn at bat.

“Aidan’s been a fan since birth, whether he’s known it or not.”

— Roie Eddelson

“I actually saw him dancing over there before, and he was dancing when he was getting ready,” the young Mets fan said.

Aidan and his father, Brian, spent several hours in the days before the broadcast researching the team so they could be prepared. While Aidan knew those at bat would be at the bottom of the lineup, he didn’t know who exactly would be standing at the plate.

“Aidan’s been a fan since birth, whether he’s known it or not,” Aidan’s mother, Roie, said. “To be 9 years old and accomplish that is just something we’ll never forget.”

Everyone in the Eddelson family is a Mets fan, especially with his parents being born in Queens and Brooklyn. That enthusiasm has bled down into Aidan and his 6-year-old brother, Jack.

Aidan, who attends Mount Pleasant Elementary school, watched his first Mets game during the 2015 World Series when the Mets faced the Cincinnati Reds. He has been a dedicated fan ever since, saying he and the rest of his family have done their best to never miss a game.

Despite the family’s lifelong commitment to the team, it will never stop them from complaining about how they perform each season.

“They always do well in the beginning 30 games in the season, and then they downfall for some reason,” Aidan said. “They were first this year and last year, and then they just went down.”

“[The Mets] always do well in the beginning 30 games in the season, and then they downfall for some reason.”

— Aidan Eddelson

Nonetheless, Aidan’s mother said she and her family will always believe in their home team. Her husband confirmed it.

“This year, they ended on a high note,” Aidan’s father said.

Aidan said he plays little league hockey, soccer and baseball, where his favorite position is catcher. If he had a choice of career, it would either be a major league sports player or sports broadcaster. Therefore, it was really heartening for Aidan to hear, at the end of the broadcast, the veteran game pundits had only encouraging words for the young superfan.

“You did a fantastic job, you were so well prepared, and you had great notes,” Cohen said. “Ronny might become the general manager, Keith might retire, so there might be a spot in the booth before we know it.”

This post has been amended to reflect the correct spelling of young Eddelson.

A Northport-East Northport Community Theater member has been arrested for allegedly masturbating in front of a 15-year-old girl.

Northport police arrested Robert Miller, 35, on charges of first-degree public lewdness and endangering the welfare of a child Oct. 5 at approximately 8:15 p.m., according to police. Miller’s arrest took place during a rehearsal of the Northport-East Northport Community Theater group at the William J. Brosnan Administrative Building of the Northport school district.

Robert Miller. Photo from Northport Police Department

Northport police said Miller, a technical director with the theater group, requested a teenage girl accompany him outside to the parking lot to check on a motor issue with his car.

Once outside, Miller instructed the teen to sit in the car and rev the engine while he looked
under the hood. The girl said she was instructed to take off her socks and shoes, so she could “feel the vibration of the gas pedal” and did so, according to police. Police said the girl said she noticed Miller standing behind her, outside the driver’s side door with his pants unzipped, hand down his pants and was allegedly masturbating. The theater director allegedly told the teenager to look forward and watch the car’s dashboard gauges. Police said the girl reported she looked at Miller again and he was still allegedly masturbating.

Robert Banzer, superintendent of the Northport-East Northport school district, sent a letter out to residents Oct. 6 regarding the incident, which occurred on school grounds.

“The Northport police department notified the district of an alleged inappropriate action that took place on school district property, Friday night after school hours,” Banzer wrote, noting the theater group is not affiliated with the school district. “The district will continue to cooperate with police in their investigation to the fullest extent possible.”

The superintendent noted the schools would also make support services available for students Tuesday, after the Columbus Day break.

Smithtown school district Superintendent James Grossane also sent a letter out to district parents to address Miller’s arrest, as he has worked in that district for 14 years.

“[D]uring the teacher’s 14 years working within the district there have been no incidents reported,” Grossane wrote. “The teacher has been placed on administrative leave, effective immediately, and we will continue to assist in the police investigation as needed.”

The Smithtown superintendent said a math teacher would immediately be placed in Miller’s classrooms Tuesday in order to ensure “no disruption to the academic process” and support services would also be made available to students.

The theater group declined to comment on Miller’s arrest.

Northport police said they have reason to believe there may be other people subjected to allegedly lewd behavior by Miller. Anyone who feels they were a victim of Miller in the Northport area is asked to contact Detective Peter Hayes or Detective Peter Howard at 631-261-7500.

Any individual who believes they are a victim of Miller in the Smithtown area is encouraged to contact Suffolk County Police Department’s 4th Precinct detective squad at 631-854-8452.

Smithtown Town Hall. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A change of leadership at Smithtown Town Hall has resulted in a proposed 2019 budget that could increase homeowners town taxes for the first time in three years.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) presented his $109 million tentative budget for 2019 to the town council in a short meeting Oct. 5, on deadline under New York State Law. The proposed budget represents an increase of $4 million more than this year’s budget, with $1.5 million additional in the taxes levied among Smithtown’s homeowners. The supervisor promised it will be used to the benefit of its residents.

“We’ve committed in this administration to invest in Smithtown,” Wehrheim said. “We are going to do just that. I looked at the operating budget and we’ve stayed within the 2 percent mandated state tax cap.”

If approved, the 2019 tentative operating budget will be a total $66.60 annual increase for the average Smithtown homeowner, according to Wehrheim, with $28 of that increase attributable to a rise in solid waste district fees.

This graph shows the Town of Smithtown’s 2018 salaries for three positions — town supervisor, town council member and supervisor of highways — with their proposed 2019 salary increases and how that relates to similar positions’ pay in the neighboring townships of Brookhaven and Huntington. Graphic by David Ackerman

The town’s singular largest driving cost behind the proposed budget was a $1.1 million increase to health care insurance contributions for its full-time union employees, according to the supervisor. He also expects operational expenses such as fuel and utility costs to continue to grow over the year ahead.

The tentative budget sets aside $5.5 million for road, curb and sidewalk improvements, which Wehrheim said he decided in conjunction with Superintendent of Highways Robert Murphy (R).

The town supervisor has also proposed an approximately 40 percent increase to the Community Development Fund, which he said is used to help fund a list of neighborhood projects to improve local look and character of the neighborhoods. Most of the town’s funds will be used to kick-start projects, according to the supervisor, before hopefully being reimbursed through a combination of state aid or other grants.

Wehrheim is looking to increase the salary of each town council member by more than $9,000; from $65,818 up to $75,000. This represents a year-to-year increase of about 14 percent.

“I feel that it is in line with surrounding neighboring municipalities,” he said. “I feel the council position deserves that salary. It’s a different administration and they have far more responsibilities than they did previously.”

By comparison, each Town of Brookhaven council member is poised to make $72,316 in 2019 while to the west, the proposed annual salary for Huntington town council members is $76,841 next year.

In Smithtown, Wehrheim has proposed $30,000 for a new government liaison position, which if approved, will become an additional title and responsibilities for one of the town board members. The supervisor said the individual appointed will take on responsibilities similar to a deputy supervisor or chief of staff.

“It’s a more economical way as opposed to additional full-time staff in the supervisor’s office,” he said.

Murphy also stands to get an additional $20,000 a year, increasing the highway supervisor’s salary from $110,000 up to $130,000 per year, if the proposed budget is approved. Wehrheim said the 18 percent hike is warranted and has been talked about for several years.

“[Highway] is the town’s largest department,” Wehrheim said.

In perspective, Murphy’s new salary would be more than Brookhaven’s highway superintendent, poised to earn $119,132 in 2019 but less than Huntington’s $140,000 salary per year.

Wehrheim said that while he has added a few new positions to his administration in 2018, including a public information officer, he is hoping to hire two additional laborers each for the Highway Department and Parks, Buildings & Grounds Department next year. The exact salary for these positions has yet to be determined, according to the supervisor, as the town is in the midst of negotiating new contracts with both the Civil Service Employees Union, representing the municipality’s employees, and the Smithtown Administrators Guild, which represents its departmental directors. The previous contracts expired Dec. 31, 2017.

“Any increase would be result of union negotiations,” Wehrheim said.

The supervisor has also put forth a proposed $10 million capital budget for 2019, presented at the same time as the operating budget. He said $8 million of that budget will be borrowed by the town, and allocated toward large projects such as $2.3 million for new water mains along St. James Lake Avenue business district and $2 million in 2019 toward renovation of Flynn Memorial Park.

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Kings Park Kingsmen varsity football dominated the field against West Babylon Eagles in a 30-0 shutout homecoming victory Oct. 6.

Quarterback Kevin Decker led his team to victory by throwing for 125 yards and one touchdown.  Senior tailback Vince D’Alto also played well with 12 carries for a total of 101 yards in the shutout.

The win brings the Kingsmen up in the Division III rankings to 3-1 for the 2018 season. Kings Park  will travel to take on Hauppauge Oct. 13 at 6 p.m.

Click through the gallery above to see photos of the shutout homecoming victory. 

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The Obadiah Smith House. File photo

Two organizations in the Town of Smithtown have been selected to receive more than $13,000 in grants to plan for future preservation of two local landmarks.

The Preservation League of New York State, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve historic structures across the state, announced Oct. 3 it has awarded funds to both Commack Union Free School District and the Smithtown Historical Society.

Commack school district received a $7,620 grant to hire a consultant to perform a full building report on the Marion Carll farmhouse, which was given to the district in 1969 for historic and educational purposes.

“It’s really quite extraordinary,” said Erin Tobin, vice president for policy and preservation at the Preservation League.

This is such an incredible time capsule that has tremendous educational potential.”

— Erin Tobin

The Marion Carll Farm is a historic location of potential statewide significance, according to  Tobin, as the nine-acre property located on Jericho Turnpike consists of an 1860s farmhouse and several outlying buildings and retains many of the objects and possessions of its original owners, the Carll family of Commack.

“It’s a very intact site,” she said. “So many historic buildings on Long Island have been over restored and lost their original material and integrity of the historic building, the plaster, the wall paper and such. This is such an incredible time capsule that has tremendous educational potential.”

Huntington-based Steward Preservation Services, run by architect Joel Snodgrass, has been hired to evaluate the farmhouse and create a plan for the building’s preservation tasked with compiling a list of recommended steps. Tobin said she is aware of some issues in the farmhouse’s kitchen as well as some necessary roof repairs, but the report may uncover additional problems. The report will be done in compliance with standards set by the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“There’s a lot of opportunity out there for partnerships,” Tobin said. “It will be interesting to see what the school district moves ahead with. This report might help inform what they want to do next.”

The Smithtown Historical Society also received a $5,800 grant in order to conduct a building report on the Obadiah Smith House on St. Johnland Road in Smithtown. Priya Kapoor, executive director of the Smithtown Historical Society, said she’s thrilled to have been selected to receive the funds.

“[The Obadiah Smith House is] a treasure we want to preserve and, at this point, it needs a lot of attention and a lot of care.”

— Priya Kapoor

“It’s a treasure we want to preserve and, at this point, it needs a lot of attention and a lot of care,” Kapoor said.

The Obadiah Smith House is the first historic home the Smithtown Historical Society ever occupied, according to the executive director, but now finds itself in need of some tender loving care. The building dates back to approximately 1700 and was owned by the grandson of the town’s founder Richard Smith.

“The Obadiah Smith House is one of the earliest houses on Long Island,” Tobin said. “It’s a great example of early English and Dutch building traditions.”

Kapoor said the historical society will also have Steward Preservation Services do a full report on the building’s condition to ensure it is up to code and safe. Once the report is complete, the organization will apply for additional grants and funding to make the repairs. The long-term goal is to be able to open up the Obadiah Smith House to be toured by area students learning about local history, according to Kapoor.

The Smithtown Historical Society is in the process of fixing up and reopening the Franklin O. Arthur Farmhouse’s animal barn to the public in the spring of 2019. Kapoor said she hopes to have space to add more programs and allow people to see firsthand the historic farming techniques used.

“I’m really excited about where the society is going right now with this new direction,” she said. “We’re also excited for each member of the community who is helping us.”

Nassau County's Supreme Court. Photo from Facebook

A Smithtown home improvement contractor who pled guilty to scamming Hurricane Sandy victims out of more than $100,000 will serve jail time — on weekends only.

Lee Moser, 50, was sentenced to 45 days in jail, to be served on weekends, and five years of probation. In addition, he also paid $50,000 in restitution that will be returned to the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery.
Moser had previously pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony, and first-degree scheme to defraud, a class E felony, June 1 in Nassau County Supreme Court before Justice Robert Bogle.

Lee Moser. Photo from Nassau County district attorney’s office

“Cases like this are especially outrageous because homeowners were victimized first by Superstorm Sandy, and again by their contractor,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement. “This defendant stole from relief funds that were the lifeline victims needed to rebuild their homes and lives.”

From April 2015 to August 2016, Moser signed contracts with five Nassau County homeowners to perform work on their homes that have been severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, according to Singas. In most of these cases, the defendants wrote Moser a down payment check for the work, using funds from NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, made payable to his business Capstone Remodeling.

NY Rising is the state-run program that assists homeowners impacted by natural disasters. The homeowners had applied for and received money from NY Rising to rehabilitate their homes after they were damaged by the Oct. 29, 2012, storm.

Instead of performing the contracted work, Moser repeatedly provided excuses as to why his business had not started, such as he was in the hospital or caring for his sick mother, according to prosecutors. In total, Moser admitted to stealing $100,885 from Nassau homeowners. Moser spent these funds on gasoline, dining at restaurants, telephone services and other expenditures to continue running his construction business that were unrelated to the homeowners’ contracts, according to the district attorney’s office.

The Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs received five complaints from victims of Capstone Remodeling between June 2016 and April 2017, which were forwarded to the district attorney’s office. An investigation immediately commenced.

NY Rising has since reimbursed the Nassau homeowners who were scammed by Moser.

Smithtown High School East trampled over the Newfield Wolverines, 38-24, to claim victory at their Sept. 29 homecoming.

The Bulls’ offense came in ready to play, picking up 17 points in the first half. The Wolverines countered with three points, putting the score at 17-3 going into halftime. The offense for Smithtown East continued to do well in the second half, scoring another 21 points to put the game away.

The win improved the East Bulls standing to 3-1 as they hit the road to take on Deer Park Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. Newfield falls behind with the loss to 1-3 for the 2018 season and will host the Huntington Blue Devils Oct. 5 at 5:30 p.m.

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