Town of Huntington

From left, Bill Musto, deputy director of Huntington Parks and Recreation; Greg Wagner, town director of Parks and Recreation; Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci; Randy Howard, vice president of operations at Huntington Hospital; and Dr. Michael Dannenberg, chairman of dermatology at Huntington Hospital at the Crab Meadow Beach dispenser. Photo from Town of Huntington

Town of Huntington officials are taking steps to make sure residents can more safely have fun in the sun — without a cost to the town.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) unveiled the installment of 16 sunscreen dispensers at the town’s parks, beaches and outdoor recreational spaces July 27 at Crab Meadow Beach in Fort Salonga sponsored by Huntington Hospital-Northwell Health.

“Families and visitors of all ages can now have extra peace of mind when spending time together at Huntington’s beaches and parks,” Lupinacci said.

One person dies every hour within the United States from malignant melanoma.”

– Michael Dannenberg

The bright yellow dispensers, designed by Long Beach-based Creative Vibe Advertising, were mounted near the entrance of 14 different town-owned facilities earlier this week. The sunscreen will be provided at no cost to Huntington taxpayers under the town’s skin cancer prevention program, which is now fully sponsored by Huntington Hospital-Northwell Health.

“Skin cancer has great significance since its incident rates are rapidly increasing,” said Randy Howard, vice president of operations for Huntington Hospital-Northwell Health. “We want to help our communities stay healthy in skin-care prevention by making these dispensers available to everyone.”

Dr. Michael Dannenberg, chairman of dermatology at Huntington Hospital, said while basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma remain the most common types of skin cancer, cases of malignant melanoma — the deadliest form — have increased by 53 percent since 2008.

“One person dies every hour within the United States from malignant melanoma,” he said.

Families and visitors of all ages can now have extra peace of mind when spending time together at Huntington’s beaches and parks.”

– Chad Lupinacci

Suffolk County Legislator Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills), previously on the town board through December 2017, had been diagnosed with skin cancer while in office. Berland sponsored legislation for Huntington to test run a free sunscreen dispenser at Crab Meadow Beach in 2016 and successfully advocated for townwide expansion of the program in 2017.

“I’m glad they are continuing the program I worked so hard and diligently to create for the town,” she said. “Nothing is more important than people’s skin.” 

Berland said that it was always her intention to find a sponsor for the program as the sunscreen cost the town approximately $600 in 2017. Now she plans to bring a proposal to expand the program before Suffolk Legislature to cover the county’s recreational facilities.

Free sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 will be provided at the following locations: Crab Meadow Beach, Crab Meadow Golf Course, Asharoken Beach, Breezy Park, Centerport Beach, Crescent Beach, Dix Hills Park swimming pool and golf course, Elwood Park, Fleets Cove Beach, Gold Star Battalion Beach, Hobart Beach, Manor Field Park, West Neck Beach and Veterans Park. Each unit will be checked once a week and restocked on an as-needed basis, according to Howard.

I’m glad they are continuing the program I worked so hard and diligently to create for the town.”

– Susan Berland

Dannenberg said that he professionally recommends that people use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15, which is proven to reduce the risk of skin cancer by more than 50 percent. He said there is a reason the town’s units will offer sunscreen with SPF of 30.

“We all have a tendency to under apply sunscreen when we put it on,” he said. “The actual SPF you are seeing on your skin is lower than the SPF on the bottle. We tell people to use a minimum SPF of 30, knowing when they under apply it will get them to approximately a 15.”

Now that the dispensers are installed, Huntington Hospital’s chief dermatologist said the most important thing is for parents to be good role models.

“If parents come to the beach, bring their kids and don’t apply their sunscreen, they are teaching the kids that it’s not an important thing,” Dannenberg said. “It gets to be as a teenager they won’t use their sunscreen.”

Crab Meadow Golf course.

Vandals struck the Town of Huntington’s Crab Meadow Golf Course causing about  $124,000 in damages earlier this week.

Huntington Town officials announced four holes at the Crab Meadow Golf Course in Northport were damaged overnight between July 30 and 31.

“It’s a shame that someone would attempt to destroy one of the town’s great recreational attractions,” said Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). “Don’t let them spoil your fun — I encourage all who enjoy golf to take advantage of our discounted rates while the three greens are repaired.”

“It’s a shame that someone would attempt to destroy one of the town’s great recreational attractions.”

– Chad Lupinacci

The vandalism to holes 1, 11 and 17 occurred between 9 p.m. July 30, when the final golf cart was turned in, and 2 a.m. July 31 when a golf course employee arrived, according to the town.  The damage appears to have been done by a blunt object as opposed to a dirt bike, town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said.

One of the greens sustained insignificant damaged, which will be repaired in-house by town employees, Lembo said. The town will be filing an insurance claim for the estimated costs of  repairs at $124,000, which will take approximately four to six weeks, and for any lost revenue during that time.

The town has filed a police report, and the public safety department is ramping up park ranger and security patrols immediately in response to the incident. While gates to the golf course are locked each night and public safety officers patrol, according to Lembo, there are no security cameras at the site.

Due to the damage, the town will offer a 10 percent discount on greens fees for golfers as there are temporary greens in place at holes 1, 11 and 17. One exception, this excludes the
demand-based pricing promotion implemented earlier this year.

The town established a pilot promotion late this spring to drive up nonresident business, which has been a success. The golf course offers discounted rates during off-peak hours, reducing rates to tee off for nonresidents and residents without a golf cart. This has resulted in increased use of the golf course.

“We hosted approximately 1,000 rounds of golf this weekend, which is about 18 percent higher than usual,” said Greg Wagner, the town’s director of Parks & Recreation.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 800-220-TIPS (8477).

The Weiss family and friends place daisies into the waters off Centerport Yacht Club in memory of Ryan Weiss. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Suffolk County’s newest boating safety law aims to prevent future tragedies like the one that claimed the life of a Greenlawn boy last summer.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed legislation July 28 at Centerport Yacht Club named Ryan’s Law that will require all boats used for instructing minors to be equipped with propeller guards. After the tragic death of their 12-year-old son, Ryan, Greenlawn resident Kellie Weiss and her husband, Kevin, led the charge calling for a law change.

“We stand here forever heartbroken,” Weiss said. “Although this can’t bring Ryan back to us today, we hope that we have the opportunity to protect someone else, some other child out there.”

Ryan died July 18, 2017, when he was taking part in a boating lesson at Centerport Yacht Club where the vessel was intentionally capsized in a controlled manner. An 18-year-old instructor operating a small Zodiac inflatable boat pulled him from the water and onto the inflatable raft. As the instructor started to move the boat forward, Ryan again fell into the water and became entangled in the propeller.

“This is Ryan’s happy place,” Weiss said, wiping away tears. “I know in my heart he did what he loved to do.”

The Weiss family and elected officials look on as Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signs Ryan’s Law. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Under the new law, anyone who owns a boat used for instructional lessons that is registered in Suffolk or operates in county waters must install a propeller guard, a metal cage that surrounds the propeller of a motorized boat. The legislation was unanimously co-sponsored and then approved by all 18 members of the Suffolk County Legislature in June.

“This is a family that has really had to bind together over the last year,” Suffolk Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said, crediting the Weiss’ advocacy in getting the legislation passed. “What they have done is nothing short of incredible, to take something that is so deep and painful, and turn it into something positive.”

The law will take effect in approximately 90 days, giving boat owners an opportunity to modify their watercrafts as necessary. Those caught operating an instructional boat without a propeller guard will be fined between $250 and $500 for first offenses and from $750 to $1,500 for subsequent violations.

Erik Rosanes, commodore of the Centerport Yacht Club, said his club is onboard with the legislation.

“As we continue in our club’s mission to encourage the sport of yachting and educate the next generation of sailors, we look forward to promoting any measures that may improve the safety of our children in and on the water,” Rosanes said.

The Weiss family and members of the yacht club were joined by New York State, Suffolk and Town of Huntington elected officials in placing white daisies into the waters of Northport Harbor in memory of Ryan. Flowers were also placed on a rock marked with his initials.

Kellie Weiss said she is hopeful that one day propeller guards will become mandatory under New York State law.

“We urge every parent who has a child, teen or young adult who is going to be operating a boat or wave runner,” she said. “Think about installing a prop guard to protect your kid. No one wants to get the phone call we got a year ago.”

Huntington Town Hall. File photo by Rohma Abbas

As the Town of Huntington is entrenched in a lengthy legal battle with Long Island Power Authority, its elected officials are looking to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and move to sources of renewable energy.

Huntington town board unanimously agreed to apply for a $62,500 grant from New York State’s Climate Smart Communities Grant Program at its July 17 meeting. If the funding is approved, the town will move forward with a study of its current energy use and how to transition to using more renewable energy resources.

There is a nationwide movement of towns pledging to go renewable by 2050 and we want Huntington to be one of those towns.”

– Jenny Strandberg

“There is a nationwide movement of towns pledging to go renewable by 2050 and we want Huntington to be one of those towns,” Jenny Strandberg said.

Strandberg is one of many Mothers Out Front, a grassroots community organization pushing for a transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy, who asked Huntington officials to move forward with the study and renew their pledge to protect the environment.

“If everyone on the planet lived like the average American, you would need five planets,” said Jennifer Browns, a professor of sociology of LIU Post and Mothers Out Front member. “We need a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy and we need it now.”

Huntington first adopted the state’s Climate Smart Communities pledge in 2012. By taking the pledge, the town made several promises to its residents including trying to “decrease energy use” and “build a climate-smart community.”

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said in order for the town to become Climate Smart Community certified, it would need to hire a consultant to perform a Government Operations Greenhouse Gas Inventory to
assess what emissions its producing, a 100 percent Renewable Energy Feasibility Study and then a Capital Phase-In Plan to determine and set a schedule to meet the town’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. The estimated cost for those steps is approximately $125,000, according to Lupinacci. The town is seeking funding for half through the state grant.

“The sooner we get it in, the more we can beat people to the top of the line to make sure we show our commitment and we are ready to roll on it,” Lupinacci said.

Let me state clearly, it is LIPA’s policy to transition to renewable energy 50 percent by 2030.”

– Peter Gollon

The program requires the town provide 50 percent matching funds, for which it will pull $62,500 from the its Environmental Open Space & Park Fund Review Advisory Committee’s Green Project Fund. The committee has already approved the project.

Both East Hampton and Southampton townships on the East End have already become Climate Smart Communities certified by going through this process, according to Huntington resident Tara Kotlia. She said she would like to see the Town of Huntington become the third.

Peter Gollon, a Huntington resident and board trustee for Long Island Power Authority, said if Huntington moves forward with the study and transitions to renewable energy, it would bring the town more in line with the utility company’s long-term vision.

“Let me state clearly, it is LIPA’s policy to transition to renewable energy 50 percent by 2030,” Gollon said.

He stressed that LIPA and the power  companies will continue to push renewable energy as the future, and encouraged the town to do the same.

“It’s clear different communities must engage, set examples for each other and move toward clean energy, renewable energy as soon as possible,” Gollon said. “Huntington must continue to be a leader

The Northport power plant. File photo
Mediation meetings could begin in next 30 days in attempt to reach settlement in lawsuit before fall trial date

Town of Huntington and Northport school officials have agreed to sit down with Long Island Power Authority to see if an agreement can be reached, before the lawsuits go to trial. 

The town board voted July 17 to hire a neutral third party in an attempt to resolve its differences over the assessed property tax value of the Northport Power Station with LIPA and National Grid that have led to a lengthy, ongoing battle.

Councilman Gene Cook (R) put forth a late-starter resolution at Tuesday’s board meeting to hire Port Washington-based attorney Marty Scheinman, who he reports came “very highly recommended.” His
motion was approved 4-0. 

“The judge was very adamant about making sure we sat down and went through this,” Cook said. “Why don’t we put all the cards on the table and see what we find. I’m all for it.”

Scheinman has been a full-time arbitrator for more than 40 years and has helped parties reach an agreeable resolution in more than 20,000 private and public-sector disputes, according to his website. He has experience dealing with high-profile celebrities, elected officials and helped resolve the largest commercial dispute in the history of the New York state court system between the co-founders of AriZona Beverages, according to Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). 

“This is just about getting everyone to the table,” Lupinacci said, who has consistently said the town remains open to negotiations.  

Now, Scheinman faces the daunting task of finding common ground between LIPA, which filed a tax certiorari lawsuit against the town assessor’s office in 2010 seeking a 90 percent reduction in the assessed property tax valuation of its Northport Power Station, and seeking repayment of all taxes it claims to have overpaid since 2010 — currently amounting to more than $550 million and growing — and the Huntington and Northport communities it would affect. 

“I’m glad to have been selected and hope I can help the parties resolve their dispute,” Scheinman said. 

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) voted against taking up Cook’s suggestion, before ultimately abstaining from voting on the contract to hire an arbitrator. Cuthbertson said while he commended a move toward mediating the dispute, but questioned Scheinman’s relatable experience. 

“This particular litigation is a specialized litigation involving complex tax certiorari formulas for assessing power plants,” he said. “As far as I can see this mediator’s experience is really with labor and employment relations, so I have concern with this mediator’s background and choice.”

Under the approved contract, the town has agreed to pay Scheinman $1,150 per hour in addition to covering all out-of-pocket expenses, such as transportation, plus a one-time $400 administrative fee. The overall bill will be evenly split between the town, LIPA, National Grid and Northport-East Northport school district, whose trustees unanimously agreed to move forward with mediation July 11. 

Huntington’s town board change in approach to its lawsuit with LIPA comes shortly after the court trial was originally slated to begin, June 11, which had been postponed. All parties were scheduled to appear July 18 in Suffolk County Supreme Court before Judge Elizabeth Emerson at 10 a.m. to present their arguments on motions already made on the case. The outcome was not available by this publication’s press time. 

In early June, Cook had asked his fellow board members to hire Manhattan-based law firm Boise Schiller & Flexner LLP as additional legal counsel in the town’s pending tax certiorari case with LIPA and National Grid to aid current outside legal counsel, Lewis & Greer P.C. The measure was shot down by a 3-2 vote with Lupinacci, Cuthbertson and Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) standing against it. One of Cuthbertson’s key reasons for standing against it was the cost, as under the contract the town would have paid Boise Schiller & Flexner $1,650 an hour.  

Cook has also previously publicly spoken out about looking into the possibilities of using eminent domain for the town to take possession of the Northport power plant. He never brought the option before the board. 

Mediation meetings between all four parties would likely begin within the next 30 days, according to Cook. 

Both the Town of Brookhaven and Village of Port Jefferson announced they were nearing settlements over the tax-assessed value of the Port Jeff plant with LIPA in early April.

The four-bedroom affordable Greenlawn home in Harborfield Estates that will be sold for $221,000. Photo from Town of Huntington

One lucky family will have the chance to move into a new Greenlawn home for $221,000 — if they can beat the odds.

The Town of Huntington started accepting applications July 16 from first-time homebuyers interested in moving into a four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom house in Harborfields Estates. The housing complex is a collection of 47 single-family homes on half-acre plots ordinarily sold at starting at $800,000 each, according to the development’s website. A lottery will be held Sept. 5 to choose at random an individual or family who will be offered the opportunity to purchase the property for about a quarter of the usual cost.

“This is a very unique opportunity for a first-time homebuyer,” said Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). “The exterior is beautiful and I cannot wait to see what it looks like when the interior is complete.”

“This is a very unique opportunity for a first-time homebuyer.”

– Chad Lupinacci

Leah Jefferson, director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, which oversees the town’s Affordable Housing Program, said this is the first time the town is holding a lottery for a single-family home. The two-story house, constructed by developer Island Estate Homes, will be a little less than 2,8500 square feet and move-in ready by the 2018 holiday season.

She said she expects there to be high interest in the property. When town officials held a lottery for affordable senior housing at The Seasons in Elwood in January, the CDA director said nearly 400 applications were received for 10 available units.

“Even though there is only one unit for sale, I would not let that impede people from applying,” Jefferson said. “One person has as good of a chance as anyone else to obtain the unit.”

In order to qualify, those interested must be a first-time homebuyer which the town has defined as a person who has never owned a home, has not owned a home in the last three years or is a displaced homemaker. The purchaser must also demonstrate that their total income — including adult persons age 18 and older combined salary, overtime, bonuses, pensions, social security, tips, etc. — does not exceed 80 percent of the area’s average median income of $61,350 for a single individual increasing to $87,600 for a family of four, in accordance with federal guidelines set by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“One person has as good of a chance as anyone else to obtain the unit.”

– Leah Jefferson

“[The purchaser] must give us three years information,” Jefferson said. “If their salary has fluctuated or changed, we will work on the average.”

All applicants must be able to secure a mortgage on their own, according to the CDA director, as the town will not offer financial assistance or financing options. In addition to mortgage payments, the town has estimated potential owners should account for paying $6,000 annually in real estate taxes and $460 in homeowner association fees, which will be billed twice a year.

Town officials will not host an open house, but interested purchasers may contact the developer, at 631-588-8818 to set up a tour of the property.

Those interested must fill out the forms available online at www.huntingtonny.gov/harborfieldsestates by Aug. 17 at 4 p.m. There is a non-refundable processing fee of $26.50 and only one application may be submitted per household.

Income Guidelines to Qualify

Household size     Maximum Income
1 person               $61,350
2 persons              $70,100
3 persons              $78,850
4 persons              $87,600
5 persons              $94,650
6 persons              $101,650

Jefferson said a live lottery will be held Sept. 5 in Room 114 of Town Hall at 5 p.m. There will be two drawings, according to the CDA director. The first will create a priority list for those who are a current resident or employed by a business located in the Town of Huntington, and non-residents who can show they have relatives living in the Town of Huntington. The second drawing will be for all other applicants.

The selected purchaser will not be required to live in the house for any specific length of time, according to Jefferson, as sometimes required with many down payment assistance programs. However, there is a restrictive covenant on the house that the owner must promise to contact the CDA upon putting the house up for resale in the future so as it will remain affordable in perpetuity.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Jefferson said. “It’s not just another rental property, it’s something that they can list and invest in.”

Anyone with questions regarding the application guidelines should contact the Huntington Community Development Agency at 631-351-2884.

It was no sweat for the Town of Huntington officials to open their first interactive spray water park July 11 to the sound of children laughing and playing in the summer heat.

The Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park, located along Cuba Hill Road in Elwood Park, is  dedicated to Huntington native and fallen New York City police Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo whose family attended the park’s opening.

“Happiness was something that Paul brought to everyone he met,” Tuozzolo’s wife, Lisa, said. “Even though the smiles don’t make up for all the heartbreak that my family and I have suffered, it does prove just how much Paul did and how much he meant to his fellow officers and his community.”

“Happiness was something that Paul brought to everyone he met.”

– Lisa Tuozzolo

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.”

A 19-year veteran of the NYPD, Tuozzolo was working for the 43rd Precinct in the Soundview section of the Bronx in November 2016 when he was shot and killed responding to what was initially reported as a home
invasion, and later found to be a domestic incident. A police dispatcher told responding officers that a man who had broken into the home was fleeing in a car, which Tuozzolo swiftly tracked down. Upon approaching the vehicle, the suspect shot Tuozzolo, who later died of his injuries.

“The Sergeant made the ultimate sacrifice, he warned other officers of the same fate,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “But let’s not reflect on how he died, but on how he lived. He believed in service and love for the community.”

The police officer is survived by his wife and two young sons Austin and Joseph. The family was strongly involved with the initial proposal for the park and later its design, according to former Huntington
Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) when the project was first announced in September 2017.

“This is absolutely fantastic — one of the best dedications I’ve ever seen,” Terry Monahan, NYPD’s chief of department, said. “To have this in his hometown really means something.”

This is absolutely fantastic — one of the best dedications I’ve ever seen.”

– Terry Monahan

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.

Right up until a week before the park opened last minute touches were being added, including the gate’s memorial trellis, which was installed July 5. Town spokesperson Lauren Lembo said that the project was
finished on schedule, but a new sanitary system for the park is expected to be finished by spring 2019.

Ridge-based Laser Industries Inc. and its subcontractors were paid approximately $610,000 to build the spray park, which included installing the new waterlines, spray features, concrete and safety features as well as the custom park benches and memorial trellis. Town of Huntington employees were paid $50,000 to install a new 4-inch water line into the park as well as the sprinkler system, sidewalk and fencing.

Parrish said that trained staff are being provided with first aid equipment and umbrellas to monitor the kids at play.

Only children age 13 or younger are allowed to use the spray park. Parents or guardians must show a Resident Recreation Photo ID or that day’s picnic permit to gain access to the park. Official hours will be 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., but with this year’s planned playground camp being held at Elwood Park, it will be open to the public from Monday through Friday, 12:30 to 8 p.m. now through Aug. 10.

Billii Roberti, a member on the Town of Huntington’s Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency, Renewables and Sustainability, attends the meeting on solar prospects for churches and nonprofits. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

A Huntington Station church recognizes that the Bible says God made light and it is good, now if only they could afford to reap the sun’s benefits.

Bethany Presbyterian Church is one of many houses of worship with an interest in harvesting solar energy, but many are finding the upfront costs are too high.

In 2017, the church financed an audit of its electric system and insulation in an effort to increase its energy  efficiency, Pastor James Rea Jr. said. While this helped reduced the congregation’s electrical bill by 20 percent, according to Rea, the  congregation is interested in taking it a step further.

We would do solar, but we just can’t afford it right now.”

– Christopher Sellers

“We would do solar, but we just can’t afford it right now,” Christopher Sellers, an elder at Bethany Presbyterian, said, noting the church is still paying for the energy audit.

While renewable energy proponents point to community solar initiatives, where the output from a solar farm is shared among multiple buildings, there is still a large upfront cost and requires a significant amount of space to build the solar farm according to Ryan Madden, a sustainability organizer for Long Island Progressive Coalition.

“We need solutions like community solar,” Madden said. “Our version of community solar takes the form of bringing in multiple organizations at the same time to bring down cost and creating locally driven solar campaigns.

LIPC partnered with Massachusetts-based company Resonant Energy, which works with nonprofits to provide low-cost solar, to create the PowerUP Solar initiative. The initiative seeks to bring together nonprofits and churches for the intent of purchasing solar systems in bulk to help decrease the cost. PowerUP member organizations held a meeting with other interested groups June 13 at the Huntington Station church to advertise their plans.

Madden said nonprofits have a difficult time when it comes to getting a solar hookup simply because of the issue of affordability.

We’ve seen widespread adoption in single-family homes, but not so much in small commercial spaces.”

– Isaac Baker

“They are not usually looked at by solar developers because its more expensive, or there are multiple decision makers in those organizations that can stall a project,” he said.

Other than cost, Isaac Baker, the co-president of Resonant Energy, said the nonprofits also have to contend with a lack of incentives to get into solar, specifically that nonprofits are not eligible for the federal
solar tax credits that homeowners or for-profits can get. There are no current programs that financially help New York organizations transition from traditional electric to solar.

“We’ve seen widespread adoption in single-family homes, but not so much in small commercial spaces,” Baker said. “[A large amount] of rooftop is available in any state on small commercial buildings that are owned by nonprofits.”

Some religious organizations on Long  Island have already invested heavily in solar technology. The Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood made a big splash earlier this year when they unveiled their community solar system on their main campus. The 3,192 solar photovoltaic panels on their roof power 63 percent of the convent’s residential and office space on the 212-acre property.

Karen Burke, the coordinator of land initiatives for the Sisters of St. Joseph, said that her sisterhood was looking to make the switch at other facilities.

The town is really into getting into as much solar as possible, so this is a great untapped resource.”

– Billii Roberti

Baker said that if the PowerUP can bring together 10 different organizations, bulk pricing could bring the cost of solar panels down to $114,000 per building with 56 kilowatts of output. The initiative’s members were promised to save approximately $2,200 per year and a net savings of $212,000 in 25 years, according to Baker.

The time line for the PowerUP initiative would have the nonprofits and churches getting technical assessments by the end of July, having installation done in September and the systems up and running by October.

Billii Roberti, a member on the Town of Huntington’s Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency, Renewables and Sustainability, said that Huntington should try to look to nonprofits to proliferate sustainable energy.

“[This initiative is] bringing in people who are otherwise unable to take advantage of solar, people who are disenfranchised in a sense,” Roberti said. “The town is really into getting into as much solar as possible, so this is a great untapped resource.”

Gavin Buda hurls a pitch during the Blue Chip Prospects Grand Slam Challenge all-star baseball game. File photo by Bill Landon

Gavin Buda’s first word was “ball.”

“True story,” the Harborfields dual-sport standout athlete said. “I’ve been playing sports as far back as I can remember.”

Harborfields wide receiver Gavin Buda waits for the ball to drop along the sideline during the Empire Challenge football game. File photo by Bill Landon

Baseball was his first love, he said, signing up for every team he could play on. He played for the varsity team from freshman through senior year of high school, also competing on high-level travel teams and tournaments in other states.

“It just seemed my path was set to play baseball in college,” he said.

But during his sophomore year, he decided to try out for the junior varsity football team with some of his friends. The team went undefeated, and the wide receiver was hooked.

“There was a feeling I got playing football that I never felt playing baseball,” he said. “This bond that is created between teammates that only happens in football. The knowing that you have each other’s backs — that feeling made me think if I work hard enough, this is the sport I’d like to play beyond high school.”

He never gave up on either sport, spending three days training for football and the other three for baseball. He said winters were intense, spending time indoors at batting cages while also gearing up for the fall football season, working with trainers like Jay Fulco, Mike Bouranis, Mike Feldman, James Brady and Jay Fiedler.

Buda this month became the first Suffolk County athlete to play in both the Rawlings Blue Chip Prospects Grand Slam Challenge and Empire Challenge football game, with Wantagh’s Ryan Sliwak achieved the feat in 2011. Buda said he had no idea the history he’d made at the time he was selected.

Gavin Buda makes a catch between two Rocky Point football players during Harborfields’ homecoming spoiling win. File photo by Bill Landon

“From a young age you could tell the kid was super athletic — he stood out among his peers, and from there, he put in a ton of hard work to really hone that and continue to stay ahead of the pack,” said Harborfields baseball coach Casey Sturm, who coached Buda since he was in seventh grade. “He was a special player, and what really stood out at the end of his tenure wasn’t even so much what he did at the plate but his defense in the outfield and ability to pitch were huge.”

In Suffolk County’s 5-4 loss to Nassau June 8 at St. Joseph’s College, Buda tossed a baseball for what might be the last time. The pitcher and outfielder took over on the mound in the bottom of the fifth and retired the side in order.

“To end my high school baseball career being selected to play alongside players that were drafted to the MLB or heading off to colleges like Vanderbilt to play baseball is just awesome,” Buda said, although he joked if he let up a homerun he might not have been as happy. “To get on the mound and face those guys one last time was a great way to go out, and luckily, I did pretty good.”

A week later, he’d put down his glove and bat to strap on some football equipment.

In the Empire Challenge game, he made a 30-yard reception during a play he wasn’t even slated to be a part of. Knowing Northport quarterback Ryan Walsh, he said during the call in the huddle he told Walsh he could beat out the kid that was guarding him deep. Walsh trusted him, and Buda delivered. A step ahead of the defender, he said there was no way he was letting the ball drop.

Gavin Buda rips the ball deep into the outfield during the Blue Chip Prospects Grand Slam Challenge. File photo by Bill Landon

His two-year head coach Rocco Colucci said for him personally the moment was fitting. Being a teacher at Northport he’d coached Walsh on the junior varsity level.

“This is why I coach football,” he said. “To see these guys grow and excel.”

He said too it was a privilege to watch Buda excel the way he did.

“Right off the bat I knew he was going to be a playmaker,” Colucci said. “His hard work showed. He was always looking to get better. He was very coachable — anything I told him to do, he’d do it. And because of that, [when other teams] put their best defensive players on him,  he’d still make the catch. He likes that type of best-on-best competitiveness in football, and there’s a lot of areas in football where he excels.”

Buda will be taking his talents to Hobart and William Smith Colleges to join the football team, but said he’ll never forget where he came from.

“Harborfields is a great school, but for some reason we are always under the radar in athletics — it’s a smaller school so I guess that’s why,” he said, adding that while other top athletes chose St. Anthony’s or Chaminade, he never questioned becoming a Tornado. “There were some great players that came through Harborfields before me, and there’ll be more after me. I just hope that I did my part to help put Harborfields sports on the map. The experience these last two weeks of playing in both all-star games is something I will carry with me forever.”

This version was updated June 20 at 12:43 a.m. to indicate that Gavin Buda is the first Suffolk County athlete to be chosen for both all-star games, not Long Island. 

By Bill Landon

After a New York City 30-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass, the team went for a two-point conversion to outright win its third straight Empire Challenge football game under Hofstra University’s Friday night lights, but Long Island’s James Lyons, of Sayville, batted away the two-point conversion pass in a 28-27 thriller.

Up to that point Westhampton running back Dylan Laube has been the center of all things Long Island offense June 15, powering his way to three touchdowns — accumulating 151 all-purpose yards. He was voted most outstanding player of the game.

He opened Long Island’s scoring running off left tackle on the opening play of the second quarter and punching into the end zone to help tie the game 7-all.

Miller Place’s Tyler Ammirato, Long Island’s defensive captain, called signals on the field in an attempt to contain an explosive NYC offensive attack. His plan ended up in a Long Island defensive stop to take over on downs, and Laube was back to work on offense. Farmingdale’s Bryan DeFelice made the extra-point kick following Laube’s second touchdown to put Long Island out front 14-7 with three minutes left in the third.

“It’s an awesome experience — you read the paper every week and you see all these guy’s names and to finally meet them and get to play with them,” Ammirato said. “I thought, ‘Our defensive stand right here will be the turning point of this game — we’ve got to get a stop right here,’ but our offense is [also very] talented, they’ll punch it in.”

After NYC retied the game, Harborfields wide receiver Gavin Buda ran a sideline route and grabbed a 39-yard pass from Northport quarterback Ryan Walsh to put Long Island in excellent field position.

Buda, the only athlete in history to be chosen for both the Empire Challenge and the Blue Chip Prospects Grand Slam Challenge baseball game earlier this month, said it was a fitting way to conclude his high school career.

“It’s sad, but this is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played in my life,” Buda said. “To meet all of these great superstars that I’ve played against and I’ve seen on the field, and to be friends with them now and to be their teammates, is just amazing experience that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”

Laube finished what Buda started for a 21-14 advantage to end the scoring for the third. A rare NYC miscue helped Westhampton’s Nola Quinlan pick off a pass and nearly return it for a touchdown before being forced out of bounds with 32 seconds left in the quarter. NYC’s defense was able to make a stop that forced Long Island to try for a 36-yard field goal attempt, which was blocked.

With just over eight minutes left NYC made it a new game 21-all, but Long Island let time tick off the clock on a long drive to three consecutive first downs before Oceanside wide receiver Derek Cruz’s old-school flea-flicker jump ball. Cruz faked continuing his run and tossed the ball back to quarterback Tommy Heuer, who waited for Massapequa wide receiver Owen Glascoe to break free.

Heuer hit Glascoe in the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown pass and DeFelice added his fourth extra-point kick for a 28-21 lead with 41 seconds left, which ended up being the game-winning point.

Ward Melville linebacker Zach Hobbes, who was instrumental in the Patriots’ rout of West Geneseein the state lacrosse championship the weekend prior, was euphoric taking part in his final football game.

“I can’t think of a better way to end my senior year,” Hobbes said. “Winning a state championship and then to play in front of 9,000 people for the last game of my varsity football career, and to get a win like that, it’s an unbelievable experience.”

With time running out NYC went hurry-up offense and hit three consecutive pass plays down the sideline, getting out of bounds each time to stop the clock and save what precious seconds remained. With five seconds left,  NYC quarterback Mike Nicosia threw the Hail Mary to the left corner of the end zone, where he found Titus Leo, who made the catch as time expired.

“That was a crazy experience — that’s just how I expected the game to go,” Buda said. “I knew both teams would put up a fight and right when we scored that last touchdown I knew you could not count them out. We had to make a defensive stop, but they drove down; they’re a great team. Our defense came up with a humongous stop and that sealed the deal.”

Shoreham-Wading River’s Tyler McAuley was unable to play in the 23rd annual Empire Challenge football game. Ward Melville outside linebacker Thomas Kutchma and running back Nicholas Messina; Miller Place defensive end Matthew McNulty; and Northport quarterback Ryan Walsh were other area athletes that took part in the senior all-star game.

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