Town of Huntington

Port Jeff Superintendent Paul Casciano and board President Kathleen Brennan. File photos by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski & Sara-Megan Walsh

Port Jefferson and Northport-East Northport school districts, as well as the Town of Huntington, were dealt a blow in the legal battle against Long Island Power Authority in August. But, it doesn’t mean they are going down without a fight.

Port Jeff board of education voted unanimously — 6-0 with board President Kathleen Brennan absent — during a Sept. 24 special meeting to file an appeal of New York State Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Emerson’s Aug. 16 ruling that LIPA “made no promises” to the Town of Huntington, Northport-East Northport and Port Jefferson school districts not to challenge the taxes levied on its power stations.

Huntington Town Attorney Nick Ciapetta said the municipality formally filed its appeal of Emerson’s decision the following day, Sept. 25.

The judge’s ruling dismissed the third-party lawsuits brought forth by Huntington and the two school districts which alleged LIPA broke a promise by seeking to reduce the power plant’s taxes by 90 percent. The resolution passed by Port Jeff school board authorized its legal counsel, Ingerman Smith, LLP, to file the appeal.

“We do think her decision was incorrect, and clearly we do recommend that the board consider filing a notice of appeal in this proceeding,” said attorney John Gross of Ingerman Smith, LLP, prior to Port Jeff’s Sept. 24 vote.
Northport-East Northport’s board trustees had previously voted to pursue an appeal at their Sept. 6 meeting.

Gross, who has been hired to represent both Northport and Port Jeff schools, said the districts

will have six months to perfect appeals. During this time, the districts’ legal team will prepare a record including all exhibits, witness depositions, and information gathered from the examination of about 60,000 pages of documents. He said a brief outlining the  legal arguments against Emerson’s decision will be crafted prior to submitting the appeal.
LIPA will be given several months to prepare a reply, according to Gross, prior to oral arguments before a four-judge panel in New York State Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. Further appeals are possible following that decision. Gross said the process could take more than a year.

Meanwhile, Huntington Town, Northport-East Northport school district, LIPA and National Grid have agreed to pursue non-binding mediation relating to the case, which begins Sept. 26. Gross said while Port Jeff is not a party to the mediation, it will be monitoring the outcome because the process could establish a pattern of resolution for its case. He also said the district can withdraw its appeal at any time, but once that occurs it cannot rejoin the process.

“Legal actions taken by the Town [of Brookhaven], [Port Jefferson] Village and school district to generate an equitable solution to the LIPA tax assessment challenges are intended to protect its residents and children against exorbitant property tax increases; especially in a very short interval of time,” Port Jeff school district said in a publicly released letter Sept. 12 prior to passing a resolution authorizing the appeal. “Please know, that the district fully understands that the decision about engaging legal counsel is one to be made with great care, as it always carries a financial implication while never guaranteeing a verdict in one’s favor.”

Port Jefferson's stop on the Long Island Rail Road. File photo by Erika Karp

An idea decades in the making could take a major step forward by the end of 2018.

It still may be years before electrification happens, if it ever happens at all, but momentum is building toward funding being secured for a study determining the feasibility of electrifying the Long Island Rail Road on the Port Jefferson line from Huntington to the stations east by the end of this year.

Mitchell Pally, the Suffolk County representative on the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s board of trustees, said the LIRR has already appropriated funds to support the study, adding state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has also succeeded in appropriating state funds toward the plan.

“The support of the communities involved is essential to making this work,” Pally said in an interview. “The railroad is very supportive.”

Community support for exploring the possibility of electrifying the line, which currently allows trains to run on diesel fuel east of Huntington, has been building in recent years, although the idea has been on the radar for North Shore residents at least as far back as the 1980s.

Anthony Figliola, an East Setauket resident, former Brookhaven Town deputy supervisor and vice president of Empire Government Strategies, a company that provides strategic counsel on governmental relations and practices to municipalities, has been leading a community coalition advocating for a feasibility study for about the last year, he said. The group, which Figliola said has been informally calling itself the North Shore Business Alliance, has been lobbying elected officials and community organizations like civic associations and chambers of commerce throughout the relevant territories in an effort to build public support for and attention on the idea. Figliola said he hopes the funding for a study will be in place by the end of the year. The study is expected to cost approximately $12 million, he said.

“It’s ripe, the community wants it,” Figliola said. “We’re very grateful for all that Mitch is doing to advocate on behalf of this.”

Figliola identified Charlie Lefkowitz, vice president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and real estate developer, as one of the other community members leading the charge for electrification.

“It’s a long time coming,” Lefkowitz said of progress on the feasibility study. “It was a collaborative effort on many fronts. The direct beneficiaries of it will be the communities.”

The study would examine how much faster trains on the North Shore line would reach Penn Station in Manhattan with electrification from Port Jeff, select a new rail yard to house the electric trains among other logistical particulars. Currently, the LIRR rail yard is off Hallock Avenue in Port Jefferson, though several officials have indicated electrification would require the relocation of that yard and the Port Jeff train station. The former site of Lawrence Aviation Industries has been suggested as a possible new rail yard and train station.

On April 4 Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R), Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) sent a joint letter to the New York State Legislature’s Long Island delegation to express their support for the feasibility study due to potential economic and environmental benefits. They cited that the Port Jefferson and Huntington branch lines have the highest ridership, about 18.7 million annually, of any line in the LIRR service territory, according to the most recent LIRR Annual Ridership Report released in 2015. Figliola said his coalition had lobbied for the support of the three supervisors.

“I think it has legs,” state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said of electrification. “It’s such a good idea that I think it should happen.”

A newly finished community mural that spans the bridge between the Huntington Station and South Huntington communities was unveiled on Huntington Awareness day.

The Town of Huntington celebrated the completion of Birchwood Intermediate School’s community mural painted on the Long Island Rail Road overpass over New York Avenue Sept. 22.

It’s a day our community celebrates not an individual’s, but our collective achievements,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “This beautification project delights and inspires us, it continues the beautification that we’ve done. It helps bring us forward, inspires us, and let’s us know that we are one community working together.”

Annie Michaelian, former assistant principal at Birchwood, and Barbara Wright, a fifth-grade teacher at Birchwood, led a team of students, teachers and staff to painting a mural along the LIRR overpass that highlights Huntington’s unique landmarks, features and cultural diversity.

Area residents should be able to easily identify some of the iconic landmarks painted on the overpass including the Huntington Lighthouse and the southwest entrance to Heckscher Park, and a stylized version of the park’s fountains and bridges. These items are depicted as drawn by Birchwood’s students.

The best part of this experience was as we were painting our community members are walking past us and thanking us for beauitfying the train station,” Birchwood principal Anthony Ciccarelli said. “It was touching to all of us, it put smile on our faces. We did it for the love of our community.”

In the last few weeks since TBR News Media first reported on the mural, the finishing touches including the names of the schools in Huntington and South Huntington school districts have been added along with a quote by Walt Whitman, Huntington’s famous poet and journalist.  A flag was also added to an airplane to thank Aboff’s Paints in Huntington for donating all the paint, brushes, rollers and supplies needed.

See more photos of the new Huntington Station LIRR mural while in progress, click here. 

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

It’s a rubbish time to be involved in the recycling industry.

The Town of Brookhaven’s recycling plant is grappling with unprecedented mounds of bottles, used paper goods and trash. Ever since China implemented its “National Sword” policy in January banning the import of various nonindustrial plastics, paper and other solid wastes, Brookhaven’s had a hard time selling off collected recyclable materials. As China was one of the top buyers of U.S. recyclables according to NPR, this move has left many Suffolk townships unsure what to do with their residents’ recycled garbage.

To recycle or not: Tips  on handling your trash

By Kyle Barr

Operators of the Brookhaven recycling plant deal with a lot of junk. Not the good kind of junk, however, as many household items that residents assume can be recycled can cause havoc in the machinery.

In the four years since the town invested in single-stream recycling,  Erich Weltsek, a recycling coordination aid for Brookhaven, said there has been increased resident participation in the recycling program. But it has also led to some residents chucking in items that have no business being recycled.

We’ve gotten chunks of concrete, and you even get sports balls — like soccer balls, footballs — constantly,” he said. “A lot of what we call ‘wish cycling,’ where people think they’re doing the right thing and when in doubt they throw it in a recycle bin instead of the right receptacle.”

Weltsek said people have tried to recycle Coleman outdoor stoves and propane tanks, which is extremely dangerous and could result in an explosion at the facility.

The most pervasively disruptive items are plastic bags and other items that Weltsek called “tanglers,” such as Christmas tree lights, pool liners and garden hoses. The recycling facility operates on a number of conveyor belts that first feed into a device called a star screen, a number of rotating cylinders with feet that separate recyclable fibers from other items. These items either wrap around the wheels on the conveyor belt or star screen, either letting fibers through the wrong end or stopping the machine entirely.

Suffolk residents should clean out any plastic bottles or cans before putting them in the recycling. Any low-quality paper products or grease-stained cardboard such as used pizza boxes, should not be recycled because they affect the sellable quality of the entire recycling bundle.

Andrade said all plastic bags should be recycled at a local supermarket, which are mandated by New York State law to have a receptacle for all shopping bags.

The plant often has to turn away other nonrecyclable material, such as plastic utensils, bottle caps and Styrofoam. All of these are considered contaminants, either because they cannot be recycled properly, or they
dilute the quality of the material.

“While it hasn’t stopped it, China’s new policies have significantly slowed down the ability of recyclers to move material to market,” said  Christopher Andrade, commissioner of Brookhaven Town’s waste management department. “There are domestic mills and domestic markets [but] the thing is just finding them, negotiating them and moving the material.”

That is easier said than done, according to Andrade, as many recycling plants across the nation now have fewer options of where to sell their collected goods. China has publicly claimed the decision has to do with the quality of the materials, as low-quality newspaper print or thin PVC plastics are not considered valuable enough for reuse. There’s also the problem of recyclables being mixed with other, nonreusable garbage.

In 2014, Brookhaven moved from dual-stream to single-stream recycling, a system that allows residents to put out all their recyclables in a single can to be sorted out at the town’s facilities instead of bringing out a different material — plastic, papers or metal — every other week. This increased overall participation in the recycling program, Andrade said, but has led to some confusion.

The loss of the Chinese market has severely interrupted the Brookhaven-owned Green Stream Recycling facility’s outflow. Green Stream Recycling LLC, a company that contracts with the town and operates the town’s facility in Yaphank, made good use of China’s market. While the facility continues to operate without a definitive answer to where else the company can move its materials, some of it is now going back into the landfill, according to Andrade.

This crisis is not only affecting the Town of Brookhaven, but other municipalities on Long Island which sell their collected recyclables to Suffolk County’s largest township. In 2014, the Town of Smithtown formed a five-year contract with Brookhaven to send 12,000 tons of garbage to the Green Stream facility,  in return for $180,000 per year. While Brookhaven continues to honor the agreements with its partnered municipalities, the lack of market availability for recyclables has some members of Smithtown Town Board concerned.

At a Sept. 4 work session, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) showed board members a photo taken by a drone in May showing recyclables piled in heaps just outside Brookhaven’s facility. The picture made Wehrheim and other board members question what might become of the town’s current recycling agreement.

“At one point, we’re going to come to some decision what to do with [Brookhaven Town,] Wehrheim said. “It could be a potential problem … in the short term.”

Andrade said that excess dumping on the facility’s land came from the “shock” of China’s National Sword policy being implemented earlier this year, though he said the situation has since been brought under control. Despite these international issues, Andrade said Brookhaven remains committed to recycling.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) “and the board believe very strongly in recycling, and we’ll bounce back from this,” he said.

The markets are being overwhelmed; the people taking the material can be picky on what they accept. We’re going to have to respond by being better at only putting out the things that people can actually reuse.”

— Russell Barnett

Russell Barnett, Smithtown’s environmental protection director in the Department of Environment and Waterways, said he is working on a solution with Brookhaven, including a regional approach comprising Smithtown, Huntington, Southold and several other communities that are partnered with Brookhaven.

Smithtown had its own dual-stream facility that was closed before it started sending its materials to Brookhaven in 2014, though reopening it could be costly.

“We’re assessing our equipment — seeing what’s operational, what’s not, what repairs need to be made and what upgrades need to be made if the occasion comes up that we want to go that route,” Barnett said.

In the meantime, he said residents need to be more discriminating when it comes to deciding what items to recycle. Otherwise, it will be much harder in the future to find a buyer for the world’s recyclable garbage.

“When they talk about the standard, they’re not just talking about nonrecyclable material
but the right kind of recyclable material.” Barnett said. “The markets are being overwhelmed; the people taking the material can be picky on what they accept. We’re going to have to respond by being better at only putting out the things that people can actually reuse.”

A new sign bears witness to the toll Sept. 11, 2001 continues to exact from South Huntington and the surrounding communities.

Town of Huntington officials unveiled a sign dedicating Iceland Drive as “NYPD Officer Mark J. Natale Way” in honor of a South Huntington resident who died of a 9/11-related illness. About 100 family members, friends and his former colleagues gathered for the Sept. 14 ceremony on what would have been his 56th birthday.

“Officer Natale dearly loved his family, friends, colleagues and community as the number of people gathered here to celebrate his life today shows the impact he made on all of us,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “The sign we are unveiling today is a reminder of his legacy.”

“The sign we are unveiling today is a reminder of [Mark Natale’s] legacy.”

— Chad Lupinacci

Natale was a South Huntington native who graduated from Walt Whitman High School before joining the New York City Police Department in 1985. He was stationed with the 94th Precinct in Greenpoint when the planes hit the World Trade Center towers during the 9/11 attacks. Natale guided dust-covered people fleeing lower Manhattan over the bridges into Brooklyn and onto ferries to New Jersey. In the days following the attacks, he stood guard at the gates surrounding ground zero.

Natale died May 4 of brain cancer at his South Huntington home, which was brought about by his exposure to the scene.

“We have not as a nation or region spent enough time honoring and remembering those people in the aftermath of 9/11 who went into harm’s way and paid the same exact supreme sacrifice with their lives as those who perished that day,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “Today, we proudly recognize Officer Mark Natale as a hero.”

This was the second ceremony Huntington town officials have hosted in as many months, dedicating a street in honor of first responders who have died of 9/11 related illnesses.

“The fact of the matter is that more uniformed and un-uniformed personnel who took part in the search, rescue and recovery operations that perish will surpass the number of people who were killed on Sept. 11, 2011,” Suffolk County Legislator Tom Donnelly (D-Deer Park) said. “We can never, ever repay people like Mark Natale for what they did that day, or in the weeks and months afterward.”

“When you pass by NYPD Officer Mark J. Natale Way, take a moment to look up at the sign and smile.”

— Mayra Natale

Donnelly said the health care issues faced by 9/11 responders is of “epidemic proportions” and estimated one individual per week is dying as a result of their service following the attacks.

“[Mark Natale’s] battle and bravery he demonstrated after 9/11 also serves as a beacon of hope for those who continue to fight 9/11-related illnesses,” Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said. “By naming this street and showing his acts of bravery, he provides who to those who are still out there fighting.”

Natale’s wife, Mayra, thanked all those who attended the ceremony alongside the couple’s three children Dominick, Catherine and Lauren for honoring her husband’s memory along with one special request.

“We all lost a piece of our hearts when we lost Mark,” she said. “He will live on eternally in our good deeds and the love we share with one another. When you pass by NYPD Officer Mark J. Natale Way, take a moment to look up at the sign and smile.”

Huntington residents stood silently in the cold rain Sept. 9 to honor the 43 people from the Town of Huntington who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

As each victim’s name was read aloud by a Huntington town official, a bell was rung by a Bill Ober, chairman of the town’s Veterans Advisory Board, and a single rose was laid at the base of the 9/11 memorial in Heckscher Park. The names were read by Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) and councilmembers Mark Cuthbertson (D), Gene Cook (R) and Joan Cergol (D).

“It’s hard to believe that there’s an entire generation of young people who do not [what?] what it was like to live and experience with memories of that day,” Lupinacci said. “It is the memory of your loved ones that we hold this ceremony each year and every year, so that we can remember your loss, which remains our loss, and educate those too young to have lived through that day.”

Seven of the 43 names read were first responders, including members of the Fire Department of the City of New York  and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

“As always on this sad day of remembrance, we ask the question what we can productively do in the face of such extreme hatred and evil,” said Rabbi Yaakov Raskin, of Chabad of Huntington Village, who gave the benediction for the ceremony. “Much in the answer lies in the education of our children.”

Children enjoy the grand opening of Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park in Elwood. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Huntington is temporarily re-opening the Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park at Elwood Park due to the heat wave the area is currently experiencing.

Huntington officials announced the spray park will be open Sept. 6 and 7, from noon to 6 p.m.  The hours for the week starting Sept. 10 will be determined based on the weather. Town of Huntington beaches will remain closed due to a lack of available lifeguard staffing, according a statement from the town.

The park is 4,900 square feet in area with 2,500 square feet of active play features, according to town Civil Engineer Ed Parrish, the project manager for the spray park. Parrish added that the spray pad water runoff will be collected and reused for field irrigation at Elwood Park.

The interactive spray park contains multiple water features, including several button- activated water jets, water spraying hoops and overhead buckets that fill up and dump down onto children’s heads. The largest bucket that hangs several meters off the ground is labeled with big block letters spelling “NYPD.” 

The spray park, located at Elwood Park on Cuba Hill Road in Elwood, is open to residents with Resident Recreation Photo ID Cards (children under 13 years old will be able to use the spray park if accompanying parent/guardian shows a Resident Recreation Photo ID Card – exception only for those who have Picnic Permits for that day), Non-residents may only enter the spray park if they are accompanied by a resident with a Resident Recreation Photo ID Card.

 

Scott Blackshaw's brother, David, center right, holds a sign dedicating Hillwood Drive for the 9/11 responder's honor. Photo from Town of Huntington

Town of Huntington officials paid tribute last Saturday to a Huntington Station resident who lost his life to 9/11-related illnesses.

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) led a street ceremony Aug. 25 dedicating Valleywood Drive in Huntington Station in honor of former New York Police Department officer Scott Blackshaw.

“NYPD Officer Scott Blackshaw embodied the American spirit that rises to any challenge, a spirit of selfless sacrifice to help others in need, and a spirit of resolve and bravery committed to defending our way of life,” Lupinacci said. “Scott Blackshaw dedicated his time and his love to his family.”

“NYPD Officer Scott Blackshaw embodied the American spirit that rises to any challenge, a spirit of selfless sacrifice to help others in need, and a spirit of resolve and bravery committed to defending our way of life.”

— Chad Lupinacci

Blackshaw was a graduate of Northport High School who joined the NYPD in 1990. He patrolled the Manhattan South borough and worked for the 13th Precinct at the time of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. He spent six weeks on duty at ground zero working the pile, searching for traces of his fallen comrades and fellow citizens.

“We must never, ever forget what a hero really means is someone who is selfless, who gives of their time and energy because they care about their community,” state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) said. “Scott was such a person.”

Blackshaw lost his battle with cancers sustained as a result of his work at Ground Zero May 20. He was 52. The town supervisor said his neighbors recalled how he was the type of person who used to help cut their grass for free and plow their driveways when it snowed. As he fell ill, Blackshaw’s friends and neighbors rallied to his support to take care of him, calling themselves “Team Scotty.” He, in return, call them “his angels.”

“Scot was one of those people, he cultivated a family right here on this road,” said Suffolk County Legislator Tom Donnelly (D-Deer Park). “This sign will be a living testament not only to NYPD Officer Scott Blackshaw but to the kind of person he really was.”

More than 10,000 people have been diagnosed and certified to have 9/11-related cancers and illnesses, according to John Feal of the Feal Good Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to helping all emergency personnel who have faced injury or illness due to their time of service get the health care they need.

On Sept. 15, Feal said Blackshaw’s name will be officially added to hundreds of other first responders and emergency personnel who lost their lives as result of the attacks listed on the memorial wall at the 9/11 Responders Remembered Memorial Park, located on Smithtown Boulevard in Nesconset.

“But now that the street sign is up, he’d say it’s your responsibility to cut your grass every week and pick up your leaves.

— David Blackshaw

“Today’s street ceremony serves a purpose like the park,” he said. “That history is never distorted and so generations to come will know the sacrifice that Scott and others made. These are tangible items that you can see and can touch that will be a reminder that Scott was truly a hero.”

Following the unveiling of the new street sign, Blackshaw’s friends and family hosted a block party to honor his life with donated food, drinks and supplies from the Best Yet in East Northport, East Northport Beverage, and The Home Depot in Huntington.

Blackshaw’s brother, David, said it was amazing to see the community come together for Scott, providing him with a support system that gave “full life.”

“My brother wouldn’t want this sign up on the street, and he would tell you all to go away,” he said, his words answered by laughter. “But now that the street sign is up, he’d say it’s your responsibility to cut your grass every week and pick up your leaves.”

The New York State Armory is slated to become the James D. Conte Community Center. File photo

Town of Huntington officials went back to the drawing board by hiring a new architect to take over designing what promises to be a future Huntington Station landmark.

Huntington town board unanimously approved a resolution to hire Patchogue-based BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers, P.C. to take over the engineering and design of the James D. Conte Community Center in attempts to keep the project’s budget under control.

In December 2016, the town selected DCAK-MSA Architectural and Engineering P.C. out of 14 proposed bids received to create plans to renovate the former New York State National Guard Armory on East 5th Avenue into a community center. The costs of the firm’s engineering services were not to exceed $603,000 over the length of the four-year contract.

On May 22, 2018, DCAK-MSA submitted a supplemental fee request asking for an additional $850,000 to raise their total design fee to $1.453 million, more than double the initial price agreed upon, according to the town.

We do expect to receive a modified plan from BBS after contracts are signed, scaling construction costs back down within the $9 million range.”

— Chad Lupinacci

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) also indicated there were issues with the conceptual plans that were unveiled in November 2017 as the renderings included features that brought the project’s total cost up to $14.2 million, far exceeding the anticipated budget of $10 million.

“We do expect to receive a modified plan from BBS after contracts are signed, scaling construction costs back down within the $9 million range,” Lupinacci said. “Their experience provides knowledge and skills necessary as we move into the important cost management and design phase.”

BBS has completed more than $3 billion of municipal and school construction projects, according to the town, and is familiar with municipal bidding costs and industry trends. Its contractual costs with the town are not to exceed $711,000 over a four-year span. 

The town first acquired the former armory from New York State in 2013 in the hopes of creating a space that could be used for community-based public programs in education, fitness, health and wellness and veterans’ activities.

The center will be named after James Conte, a former state assemblyman who represented the 10th district including Huntington Station for 24 years and played an instrumental role in getting the state to transfer ownership of the decommissioned building over to the town. Conte died in October 2012 of T-cell lymphoma.

The initial conceptual plans for rehabilitating the 22,500-square-foot building unveiled in November 2017 suggest space could be repurposed for such uses as arts and crafts, a computer lab, a recording studio, an all-purpose gymnasium, a strength training facility, CrossFit center, rock climbing arena, a community meeting space, a multipurpose room, classrooms, office space and an elevated indoor running and walking track. The town has also promised the American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244 a designated area to run as a veterans canteen.

“A couple of months ago my mother and I went down to Town Hall to view the plans that are going to be on display today, and we were just blown away,” said Conte’s daughter Sarah at the time of the unveiling. “This is exaI amctly what my father would have wanted for this community. Myself and my family are so honored to be here and to have this named after him. We know he would be honored as well.”

The first set of architects had suggested possible outdoor uses for the 3.6-acre site could include an amphitheater, meditation gardens, a spiritual walkway and bench seating.

It’s unclear which of these features may be eliminated or reduced in an effort to keep the project costs within its remaining $9 million budget, but BBS is expected to present its revised plans to the town board in the future.

Huntington Town Hall. File photo by Rohma Abbas

The Town of Huntington’s new administration made a second wave of staffing changes at its Aug. 7 meeting, reinstating some positions, while abolishing others.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) sponsored a resolution last week that reinstated nine job titles with a total annual salary of $284,921 while also creating 14 new positions for a total of $272,413. The bill also cut nine staffing positions, which is estimated to save more than $268,000 annually.

We look at the different departments, I’ve been in office seven months now to see what has been working and what isn’t working.”

– Chad Lupinacci

“We look at the different departments, I’ve been in office seven months now to see what has been working and what isn’t working,” Lupinacci said.

A second bill put forth by the supervisor appointed nine individuals to the newly created positions, many of which are exempt from taking civil service tests. Both pieces of legislation passed by a narrow 3-2 vote, split on party lines with Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) and Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) voting against. They accused the board’s hiring process for these position of lacking in transparency and reeking of political nepotism.

We are seeing chapter two of the Republican patronage playbook at work,” Cuthbertson said, denouncing the legislation. “A slew of positions are being created that require no civil service test. These are patronage jobs — plain and simple.”

The councilman reported he and Cergol weren’t included in the hiring process, stating he had seen only one candidate’s résumé prior to the town board meeting and questioned if those appointments had proper qualifications.

We are seeing chapter two of the Republican patronage playbook at work.”

— Mark Cuthbertson

Councilman Gene Cook (R) voiced support for Lupinacci’s appointments, stating the changes were needed in order for town government to run efficiently.

“In the past month or two, I’ve had nothing but complaints against the people in the building department,” he said. “I’ve had the same thing with the planning department. There’s been a number of issues and people deserve better.”

As part of the staffing changes, Joseph Cline, who has served as Huntington’s director of engineering services, was demoted to deputy while maintaining his $138,375 salary. Cline will be replaced by Daniel Martin, who will make more than $146,500 a year. He was appointed to serve as a Suffolk County Supreme Court judge since 2010 before becoming a deputy town attorney.

Lupinacci said he stood by the newly hired and appointed employees based on their skills and merit. Of the nine appointments made Aug. 7, five are new hires and four individuals were already employed by the town but are taking on new roles for which they will receive an additional stipend.

There’s been a number of issues and people deserve better.

— Gene Cook

Cuthbertson previously criticized Lupinacci’s February appointments for going to “11 white Republican males” many of whom had previously campaigned on the party line for various government positions. The councilman argued this second wave of appointments will also have a negative fiscal impact on the town.

“This is gravely wrong from a fiscal and budget standpoint,” Cuthbertson said.

He estimated many of the newly created positions would cost the town approximately $40,000 a year in benefits including health care insurance and retirement benefits.

The town will pull roughly $265,000 from its contingency funds in order to fill the new positions.

“Where is the transparency you promised?”

— Joan Cergol

Cergol voted against the move, calling it a “dizzying array of personnel maneuvers that mystify even those of us used to looking at these resolutions, let alone the public.” She also questioned the hiring process used.

“Where is the transparency you promised?” Cergol said.

She said the resolution Lupinacci presented to board members on the Friday before their meeting had dramatically changed by Tuesday afternoon without explanation.

Among those who will be leaving Town Hall include: John Coraor, director of cultural affairs; Rob Reichert, deputy director of planning; and Jake Turner, the deputy director of engineering services.

The town will be looking to fill three openings that have resulted due to these promotions or being newly created, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo, including an entry-level auto mechanic, an audio-visual production specialist and a plumbing inspector position by civil service candidates.

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