Town of Smithtown

Dozens of people entered Napper Tandy’s Pub in Smithtown to boldly go bald at a St. Baldrick’s Day event March 10. The event raised more than $50,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds childhood cancer research.

The top fundraising team was the fourth-grade boys Smithtown Bulls lacrosse team, coached by Rob Trites, which collected more than $12,000 for the charity.

“This is our third year doing it as a team,” Trites said. “It’s a great event to get the kids together at — a nonsporting event so they can bond and give back, shave their heads in solidarity with children fighting disease.”

Smithtown Town councilman Tom Lohmann (R) and Robert Murphy (R), the town’s superintendent of highways, shaved their heads this year. Lohmann and Murphy were part of a team that raised more than $11,000 in memory of Matthew Gonzalez, who died May 21, 2009 from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Evidence of Long Island crimes found after Florida resident was arrested for pornographic material

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced a former Commack resident and babysitter has been extradited from Florida and charged with 27 counts of alleged sex crimes against three young children who were in his care in Suffolk County between 2009 and 2014.

Suffolk County Police Department has been working in cooperation with Florida’s state attorney’s office since 2014 to bring Benjamin Fielman, 27, back to Long Island to face criminal charges for his alleged actions. Fielman was arraigned in First District Court in Central Islip March 9. Fielman is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Florida, where he is registered as a sexual predator, after pleading guilty to felony sex crimes involving children in June 2017.

Benjamin Fielman mugshot. Photo from SCPD

“These crimes are atrocious,” Sini said. .“This individual used the trust that was given to him by families in Suffolk County to carry out these depraved acts against children, our most vulnerable population.”

Fielman worked as am assistant teacher ta Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center in Commack for four years (2008-2011) and as a babysitter, not related to any service or agency. During this time, the district attorney said allegedly Fielman sexually abused three unrelated boys ranging in age from 7 to 11 and was allegedly taking sexually explicit photos and videos.

Florida state authorities executed a search warrant on the suspect’s home after he was arrested in 2014, according to Sini, where they found evidence of Fielman allegedly engaging in sexual contact with minors. He was also in possession of child pornography. Authorities determined  the materials originated in Suffolk County. Florida authorities contacted the Suffolk County Police Department’s computer crimes unit, which investigated the origin of the images and videos through the files’ metadata and was able to identify the victims.

“We have serious concern that there are more victims,” District Attorney Sini said. “It’s very important that we not only take this individual off the streets so he cannot pose a danger to children moving forward, but also that we send a clear message that law enforcement from all jurisdictions is working together to bring people like this to justice.”

The district attorney’ office said it has been in touch with the community recreation center and they have been cooperating with the active investigation.

Fielman was indicted by a Suffolk County Grand Jury on May 22, 2015 on two counts of first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child; two counts of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child; 11 counts of promoting a sexual performance by a child; 11 counts of using a child in a sexual performance; and endangering the welfare of a child. He was remanded without bail to the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

The district attorney said the case remains an ongoing investigation under Suffolk’s Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Bureau. Anyone with information about the defendant or potential victims are encouraged to contact law enforcement at 631-852-6279. Anonymous tips can be made through Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).

Smithtown United Civic Association calls for further review; town promises to consider environmental study

The approximate location for a proposed 120-foot cellphone tower at 300 West Main Street. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A proposal for a 120-foot cellphone tower off West Main Street in Smithtown is getting bad reception from some residents.

The antenna, proposed by Deer Park-based Elite Towers, would be installed at 300 West Main St., behind the Mobile gas station across from a Stop & Shop plaza. Elite Tower said its aim is to strengthen the service for AT&T and Verizon customers in the town.

The company claims the tower, for which a special permit application was originally filed in 2015, would help eliminate a cellular “dead zone” in the vicinity, where weak signals are expected and phone calls are considered dangerously unreliable, according to its proposal. Any calls made to 911 and other emergency responders have run the risk of being bounced across the Long Island Sound and being rerouted to Connecticut.

Greg Alvarez, an attorney representing Elite Towers, asked town council members to approve a special exception permit to place a public telecommunications facility on the site at the Jan. 25 town board meeting. Alvarez said that in the future, the pole could also be utilized by other mobile carriers. Following the presentation, members from Smithtown United Civic Association called for a further review of the cellphone tower.

We have to acknowledge there’s clearly a gap in cellphone coverage in the area, but we’re just questioning the magnitude of what they’re looking to construct.”
— Tim Small

“We have significant concerns about the impact on the character of the town,” civic president Tim Small said, after a meeting with Alvarez and Elite Towers Feb. 27.

Small said reducing the overall height of the cellphone tower was among the main topics of discussion, but did not debate the need for one.

“This is such a huge structure,” he said. “We have to acknowledge there’s clearly a gap in cellphone coverage in the area, but we’re just questioning the magnitude of what they’re looking to construct. Why not cut it down from 120 feet to 60 feet?”

Small said he understands that the taller the tower is, the better the cell service is in “dark spots” in town. But the civic president  believes the centralized technology they’re using can and should be reduced to minimize the impact.

“We had some questions concerning density and some of the numbers they’re using for impacted customers and areas that they couldn’t answer,” he said. “So they’re going to go back and look at some of their analysis, how it was done, so they can better communicate to us how those numbers were created.

Elite Towers shared graphical displays alleging that the 120-foot tower would benefit approximately 9,000 customers and more than 500 area businesses, according to Small.

“There’s still a lot more work that needs to be done here before it’s approved,” he said. “We’re still opposed to the tower as it currently stands.”

During a Feb. 22 town board meeting, Smithtown resident Jonathan Arzt said he was worried the structure would become the first thing people see when entering town.

“My opinion is that Smithtown should not look more like an industrial park,” Arzt said. “We want to attract visitors and new residents here but I don’t think a 120-foot cell tower is the kind of revitalization vision that we have for this town in the future.”

Al Gengler, of St. James, said he lives down the road from a cell tower in Head of the Harbor and, yet, his cell signal is weak when he’s inside his house.

My opinion is that Smithtown should not look more like an industrial park.”
— Jonathan Arzt

“I think a lot of people have the wool being pulled over their eyes that this is the answer — I don’t think it’s the answer,” Gengler said. “You can go lots of places and there could be a gigantic tower, but if you’re in the valley, you’re not going to get a signal.”

He asked the town board to provide data backing up the tower’s effectiveness.

“I don’t know where to get that information as it’s not readily available online,” Gengler said. “It would be nice to be able to look at that data and the specifics, rather than [rely] on hearsay.”

Following the meeting, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said that an environmental impact survey will be conducted “to determine if there will be any negative effects of the cell tower on the health of both our residents and the wildlife.” He further added that, “The attorney for the company has asked us to give them a month before we vote on the impact survey.”

The town has also received calls from other companies with alternative solutions to improving cellphone service that, they claim has no impact on the environment, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. She said the town board will hear all parties and explore all options they are presented with.

One Smithtown resident, Diane Caroll, voiced her support of the proposed tower during the meeting, saying she’s had enough of living in a town where she can’t get cell service.

Corey Geske, of Smithtown, said it would “represent a death knell” for the area, in an email read to the board. He raised concerns over potential cancer risks from living near transmission tower sites and high-tension wires, urging the board to vote against it.

“To approve such a tower across from Stop & Shop, a chief destination for Kings Park and Smithtown residents when shopping for a loaf of bread, is to put the general population at risk for their health,” Geske wrote.

More than 200 pints collected at 8th annual Glenn Ciano memorial blood drive

Suffolk County Police Officer Glen Ciano. File Photo.

Some consider finding a penny with a loved ones’ date of birth or a special anniversary a message from heaven. For Commack firefighters, there was a message in the 222 pints of blood that were donated Feb. 10.

Officer Glen Ciano was the 22nd member of Suffolk County Police Department killed in the line of duty. He died Feb. 22, 2009. Ciano was a 22-year veteran of the 2nd Precinct based in Huntington, which at the time had 21 patrol cars under its command. When Ciano died, the precinct retired his car and the next patrol squad car, No. 222, was named in Ciano’s honor.

“Everybody is saying there’s something going on, that Glen sent us a message,” said John Bicocchi, president of the Commack Fire Department. “It’s like he’s saying hello.”

“Everybody is saying there’s something going on, that Glen sent us a message”
— John Bicocchi

The fire department held its 8th annual Glen Ciano memorial blood drive Feb. 10, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hundreds of Commack residents, firefighters and Suffolk County police officers lined up to donate.

“It is our honor to honor Glen in this way,” said Pat Fazio, commissioner of the Commack Fire Department. “Glen was someone who gave everything, 100 percent of the time and he gave it all.”

Ciano died while responding to a call for backup in 2009. While at the intersection of Vanderbilt Motor Parkway and Commack Road in Commack, his vehicle was struck by a 2007 Dodge Magnum and burst into flames upon hitting a nearby telephone pole. Commack firefighters responded to the scene.

Ciano is survived by his wife, Sue, and two children, Samantha and Daniel.

The driver of the Dodge Magnum, Jose Borbon, pled guilty to first-degree vehicular manslaughter and aggravated driving while intoxicated in November 2010.

Fazio said the Commack Fire Department renamed their blood drive after Ciano upon his death to honor his service to community residents and mentoring of firefighters in the fire department.

“By having a blood drive in [Ciano’s] memory, it’s a way for him to continue helping his community by supporting people and donating blood.”
— Stuart Cameron

“It’s wonderful they are continuing his memory in a most appropriate fashion by having this blood drive every year,” said Stuart Cameron, chief of department for Suffolk County police. “By having a blood drive in his memory, it’s a way for him to continue helping his community by supporting people and donating blood.”

Sue Lingenfelter, business development manager for New York Blood Center, said the organization has experienced a shortage of blood donations. Long Island needs nearly 800 pints donated per day and New York-Metro area 2,000 pints per day, according to Lingenfelter, to assure a steady supply for medical treatments and emergencies.

“Here in New York metro area, less than 2 percent of eligible donors give blood, which is the worst percentage of participation in the country,” she said.

This winter, Long Island’s blood banks have been negatively impacted by the influenza epidemic, cold weather, blizzards cancelling several blood drive events and government shutdowns.

“No one ever knows when they are going to need blood, but everyone expects it to be there,” Lingenfelter said.

Susan Ciano said she attends the event every year, talking to attendees about their memories of her husband.

“What I look forward to in February — it’s a tough month for me — is this blood drive,” she said. “When I go, I see many of the same people and many new people. I am there all day long because I want to thank people for giving their time.”

This post was last updated Feb. 15 at 2:08 p.m. 

Town's 2018 capital budget of $9.5 million features Lake Avenue revitalization in St. James

A plan for what Lake Avenue would look like post-revitalization. Photos from the Lake Avenue renovation capital project report, prepared by the Smithtown Planning Department

By Kevin Redding

With the adoption of more than $30 million in  capital plans Tuesday, Smithtown officials hope to be looking at a robust future.

Smithtown Town Board approved its 2018 capital budget of $9.5 million — $8.8 million is bonded — and a proposed 2019-22 capital plan — totaling $20.8 million.

The majority of the 2018 capital budget funds St. James downtown business district improvements, with $4.6 million in bonds set aside for the revitalization of Lake Avenue, of which $2.4 million will fund water main replacement.

2018 Capital Budget

For 2018, town officials have set aside funding to completely revise the town code — $300,000 — and update the town’s master plan on a budget of $500,000. Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said these will serve as “blueprints for all downtown revitalization throughout Smithtown.”

We cannot move forward without modernizing the town codes, zoning and planning. It is the first big step in making downtown revitalization a reality.”
— Ed Wehrheim

“Without these two items, downtown revitalization is merely a concept,” Wehrheim said. “We cannot move forward without modernizing the town codes, zoning and planning. It is the first big step in making downtown revitalization a reality.”

Wehrheim said the town’s existing master plan was written in-house at least 10 years ago.

Bouncing off the success of a recent market analysis study by an outside urban planner of what was needed to revitalize downtown Kings Park — that broke down the pros and cons of different sections of the hamlet — the town will issue a request for proposals to bring in a new set of eyes to evaluate and suggest improvements to the existing plan.

“The master plan is essentially going to be that, but times 10 or 20,” town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said. “It’s geared toward figuring out where the town is going to be decades down the line and the focus of progress for this new administration. It’s really the start of making this town more small business friendly and civic minded.”

Once the results of the evaluation are collected, Wehrheim and other council members will pick and choose what improvements work best for Smithtown.

“We want to hear what they think we need to move forward in the business districts and the rest of the town going into the future,” Wehrheim said.

While discussing the recodification plans, Councilman Thomas McCarthy (R) said, “This is going to bring things into the 21st century.”

“There are so many things, and this is just the beginning”
— Tom McCarthy

“It’s going to streamline things and help residents, help small businesses,” McCarthy said. “It’s been decades now and there’s no reason to make people have to — as I like to say — ‘spit blood’ just to get a permit. Right now they have to go to the board of zoning appeals and planning boards for things approved 95 to 100 percent of the time.”

2019-22 Capital Plan 

Among its planned projects for 2019-22, the town will look to fund $2.2 million in improvements at various town parks: Flynn Memorial Park in Commack to turn it into a premiere Long Island sports park; $500,000 in renovations to Gaynor Park in St. James that include new tennis and basketball courts, a playground with improved surfacing, installation of refurbished, handicap-accessible bathrooms; and new surfacing in the waterpark at Veterans Memorial Park in St. James.

The town also plans to add steps leading to the gazebo at Nesconset Chamber of Commerce, install LED lighting in Maple Avenue Park in Smithtown, repave and landscape the Bellemeade Avenue parking area and replace its deteriorating showmobile. New highway equipment will be purchased, including yard generators for Smithtown and Kings Park.

“There are so many things, and this is just the beginning,” McCarthy said.

The Kindness for the Keely Family mailbox is traveling through Smithtown. Photo from St. James Elementary School PTA

This February, the St. James and greater Smithtown community is focused on sharing words of love and support to help one family through a difficult time.

One by one, cards and small care packages are finding their way to a pink and white mailbox, painted with the words “Kindness for the Keely family.” Each Friday, this mailbox, created by St. James Elementary Parent-Teacher Association, will be delivered to the family of Paige Keely.

Paige Keeley. Photo from St. James Funeral Home

The 6-year-old Paige —  nicknamed “Paigey Bean” — was a first-grader at St. James Elementary School who died of a rare brain condition Jan. 8. Her parents, Tom and Gina Keely, are active members of the St. James community and have two other children, Maeve and Ronan.

“A big concern for all of us is once everything dies down and the dust settles, that the Keelys still feel supported by the community,” said Celina Murphy, president of St. James Elementary PTA. “No one’s forgotten them, we’re all still here.”

Pink ribbons can be spotted across the Smithtown Central School District tied to signs, poles, trees and even in high school cheerleaders’ hair in memory of Paige in the days after her death.

Business owners reached out to show their support. Commack resident Nicole Helfman, owner of Creative Cutz Design, made 350 vinyl decals for the school district so they could be put up in car windows and glass storefronts.

“For anyone who has kids, knows kids or is a teacher, it just hits home,” Helfman said. “People want to help out.”

Now, PTA members are passing a mailbox between buildings to collect donations of sympathy cards, gift cards, restaurant certificates, small care packages and other well wishes from community members for the Keely family. It will be at Nesaquake Middle School through Feb. 9, followed by Smithtown High School West from Feb. 12 to 16.

“The outpouring has been tremendous from the community both within the district and community at large,” said Mary Grace Lynch, principal of St. James Elementary School. “Within the district, the teachers, staff and administration have been incredibly supportive of the Keely family.”

Those who wish to send a sympathy card or donation, but do not have children in the school, can mail packages clearly marked “Kindness for Keely” to St. James Elementary School at 580 Lake Ave., St. James, NY 11780.

Lynch said the school will be constructing a butterfly garden in memory of Paige at the family’s request, once they are ready. The principal said she is confident with the number of Scout troops, high school teams and clubs who have reached out asking how to honor Paige’s memory. There will be no shortage of hands and support to construct the garden.

“That little girl has impacted so many, many people in her six short years of life,” Lynch said. “She’s had a profound and lasting effect on the community.”

The Kindness for Keely mailbox will be at: Accompsett Elementary School, Feb. 26 to March 3; Tackan Elementary, March 5 to 9; Mills Pond Elementary, March 12 to 16; Smithtown Elementary, March 19 to 23; Dogwood Elementary, March 26 to 30; High School East, April 9 to 13;  Mount Pleasant Elementary; April 16 to 20; Accompsett Middle School, April 23 to 27; and Great Hollow Middle School, April 30 to May 4.

Dredging crew rescues five town employees from frigid waters after boat capsized

Gibson & Cushman dredgers Keith Ramsey and Che Daniels accept proclamations for helping rescuing five Town of Smithtown employees including Joseph Link, on right. Photo by Kevin Redding.

By Kevin Redding

A Bay Shore-based dredging crew sprung into action while working on the Nissequogue River in December when a boat capsized, hurling five Town of Smithtown employees into the frigid waters. For their heroic efforts, the seven-man crew, responding medical professionals and first responders, were honored by Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) during a special ceremony at town hall Jan. 30.

“A first responder’s primary duty is to protect all others before self,” Wehrheim said before presenting plaques to the heroes. “But, when unforeseen conditions put the lives of first responders at risk, who protects them?”

I was just trying to keep my head above the surface.”

— Joseph Link

It started out as a routine day for three bay constables and two parks employees as they steered their vessel around the head of the river Dec. 12 removing buoys. While attempting to pull a seventh buoy from the water, however, a rogue wave came crashing in from Long Island Sound. It flooded the boat, overturning it in a matter of seconds. All five employees struggled to swim the 40-feet to shore against the rough current.

“I couldn’t get anywhere, the waters were way too strong,” said Joseph Link, of one of the rescued employees. Link said he wasn’t wearing a life jacket at the time as it obstructed his work. “I was just trying to keep my head above the surface.”

Sgt. Charles Malloy, a senior bay constable, said he faced different dangers when he was knocked overboard.

“I was swimming away from the rear of the boat because the motors were still engaged and the propellers were still spinning and within arm’s reach,” Malloy said.

Luckily, members from Gibson & Cushman Dredging Company were about 500 yards away when the accident occurred, setting up equipment by the river’s bluff. Once they saw the boat capsize, the crew acted quickly.

“We just grabbed some lines or whatever else we could find and started throwing them out to pull them toward us,” said dredger Keith Ramsey.

They yanked four of the five stranded employees onto their boat. One member, Dan Landauer, managed to swim back to shore on his own.

“It was just our reaction,” said dredger Che Daniels. “We saw that people were in the water. The water was cold, like 40 degrees [Fahrenheit]. The wind was blowing. We were just doing what we would do for anybody on our crew if something were to happen like that.”

Upon reaching the shore, Kings Park volunteer firefighters and Kings Park EMS responders rushed to the scene. Two men were treated for hypothermia and exposure. All were transported to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center and out of the hospital within an hour without any lasting injuries.

We were just doing what we would do for anybody on our crew if something were to happen like that.”

— Che Daniels

Paul Taglienti, director of emergency medical service at St. Catherine’s, was honored during the ceremony. He said his staff’s job had been about 95 percent done for them. “This was a circumstance where I think everything was done pretty much ideally,” Taglienti said. “They were rescued very quickly and we just kept an eye on them to make sure everyone was OK.”

Wehrheim was joined by town council members Lisa Inzerillo (R) and Tom McCarthy (R), to present proclamations to all seven members of Gibson & Cushman — Daniel Engel, Daniels, Michael Lake, Jordy Johnson, Joseph Johnson, Ramsey and Peter Wadelton — although only Ramsey and Daniels were on hand to accept them. 

“I was glad when I heard they helped out, but I also would expect that from them,” said Matthew Grant, supervisor of the dredging crew’s project. “If something happens, we help out. Not many people are out on the water at that time of year, so it was a good thing we were there.”

Those rescued echoed the sentiment.

“If it wasn’t for the dredge crew — use your imagination,” Malloy said. “The outcome would’ve been far more tragic.”

Landauer also expressed his gratitude.

“There wasn’t a hiccup in anything they did, they saw us and boom — they jumped right on it,” he said. “I hope they never have to do it again, but I’m very glad that they were there that day.”

Smithtown United Civic Association member Mark Mancini. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A conceptual plan for revitalizing downtown Smithtown has community support, but faces a number of serious challenges.

Smithtown United Civic Association debuted its proposal for western Main Street’s revitalization Jan. 25 before the Smithtown Town Board to find solid community backing. Yet, elected officials and business leaders note there are serious challenges to its implementation.

Mark Mancini, a Smithtown resident and architect, presented Smithtown United’s conceptual design for Main Street which focuses on the preservation of the Smithtown school district’s New York Avenue administrative building and its fields. Public outcry halted plans to demolish the building for a 251-unit apartment complex in 2017.

“It became pretty clear that we have to take steps first as a community to make something happen on Main Street that we all can deal with,” Mancini said. “We are going to develop no matter what you might think or what you may want. Everything changes.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) assigned $20 million from the state budget for the installation of sewer mains in Smithtown, which Mancini said brings opportunity for development that residents need to have their say.

The first step in the civic association’s plan is to preserve the New York Avenue building and its property as open green space.

“I consider it a diamond in the rough in the Smithtown downtown Main Street area,” said Bob Hughes, one of the 10 members of Smithtown United. “I would like to see it as a downtown central park, to make it a destination.”

Pasquale LaManna, president of the Smithtown Kickers Soccer Club board, said he backed the proposal as it preserves the fields for recreational use. LaManna said the Smithtown Kickers is the third largest soccer club on Long Island with more than 2,000 children who play at New York Avenue.

“It’s extremely vital for us to have the green space,” he said.

Smithtown United calls for Smithtown elected officials to purchase the New York Avenue building from the Smithtown school district and use it to consolidate all town departments and services in one location.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said negotiations between the town and school district over the potential sale of the New York Avenue property had broken down in late 2017, after an appraisal determined a fair market price would be $6.8 million. The supervisor was hopeful that these negotiations could be picked up in the future.

“If the community in that area is amicable to having those discussions about developing the property, I think the school board would get back engaged,” Wehrheim said.

Other key components of the revitalization plan call for the construction of mixed-use retail stores with apartments above on the south side of Main Street with transit-oriented housing alongside the Smithtown Long Island Rail Road station.

Jack Kulka, a real estate developer and founder of Hauppauge Industrial Association, strongly supported the construction of apartments in a new “mixed imaginative zoning” code.

“If you are serious about revitalizing downtown Smithtown, you are going to have to increase the density of population in downtown Smithtown,” he said. “You need to have creativity. I think the concept, which is very important, of having residential next to the train station … has to come to Smithtown.”

Kulka stressed that Smithtown United’s plan would not work if town officials didn’t utilize the $20 million set aside by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to install sewers in Smithtown. Wehrheim agreed on the importance of sewers, stating that it is moving forward, but said he has also scheduled meetings with different developers in February.

“I have meetings set up with a couple developers, whose names I cannot divulge, to see if there are other developers that now have an interest in looking at the conceptual plan Smithtown United drew up and see if it’s feasible to embark on a project,” Wehrheim said. “That’s the first step.”

Presentations to be held on Kings Park market analysis, Smithtown United's Main Street proposal

Smithtown United Civic Association will publicly present its proposal to revitalize western Main Street Jan. 25, 7 p.m. at town hall. Rendering courtesy of Smithtown United Civic Association.

Smithtown’s new town administration is pushing forward with a strong emphasis on downtown revitalization for 2018.

A special report and final marketing analysis of downtown Kings Park will be unveiled at the Jan. 25 town board meeting set for 7 p.m. at town hall.

Larisa Ortiz Associates, a Jackson Heights-based market analysis and community-based planning firm that put together the report, gave an initial presentation to Kings Park community members in November 2017, but has since updated it with further input and recommendations from residents.

“As a result of this preliminary research, we have a greater understanding of the key elements, marketing opportunities and how to implement a plan that will deliver a thriving downtown business district,” said Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R), who resides in Kings Park.

Key findings expected to be discussed include how there’s sufficient demand to support additional retail spaces, the critical role of restaurants and bars, and improvements to walkability. The market analysis findings also suggest adding new residential buildings to Kings Park, if sewer improvements can be made, to increase the spending power of its local economy.

Tony Tanzi, president of Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said the preliminary report in November was encouraging news for Kings Park.

“It’s actually quite eye-opening some of the things it found, some of what we had suspected it proved out,” Tanzi said. “It’s educational in that you’ll learn a good bit about what the potential can be for Kings Park and other hamlets in Smithtown overall.”

The hamlet of St. James and its residents may take a particular interest in the Kings Park analysis, as they push forward with their own downtown revitalization project. The Community Association of Greater St. James invited Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, as a guest speaker at its Jan. 22 general meeting.

“You will have to have some hard discussions on what you want your business district to look like,” Alexander said to St. James residents. “You need to create clarity on what you want your downtown to be.”

Smithtown Town Board approved a $2.3 million bond at its Jan. 9 board of water commissioners meeting to replace water mains along Lake Avenue, the first step toward reconstruction of the Lake Avenue business district. Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) said the water main installation is slated to start May 1, with the goal of installation by June 30 and road reconstruction starting in July.

“I think everyone has the same idea about St. James downtown,” Nowick said. “It’s not multilevel housing but an active, vibrant downtown.”

Breathing new life into a downtown business district is also the aim of Smithtown United Civic Association. President Timothy Small will also publicly present the civic group’s proposed plan for the New York
Avenue Smithtown school district property and western Smithtown Main Street to the town board Jan. 25.

Smithtown United’s plan for the downtown area focuses on key points including consolidation of the town offices into the New York Avenue school building, retaining the sports fields for public use, road improvements and construction of transit-oriented housing. The group is seeking public feedback on the
proposed plans.

A fearless Long Island deer forages for food. Photo by Rohma Abbas

An East Quogue-based hunting group is taking aim at Smithtown town code that regulates the use of firearms, including longbows.

Hunters for Deer filed a lawsuit against the Town of Smithtown in New York State Supreme Court last month, claiming the town’s required firearms code is illegal and inconsistent with state regulations set by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The town is stepping on the DEC’s toes,” said Michael Tessitore, president of Hunters for Deer. “We are saying that we already have laws being regulated by the DEC, the town is muddying the waters.”

Tessitore said he and his fellow hunters take issue with the town’s definition of a firearm because it differs from the DEC’s definition and increases the required setback, or distance hunters can be from a dwelling.

Under Section 160 of town code, Smithtown defines a firearm as “a weapon which acts by force of gunpowder or from which a shot is discharged by force of an explosion, as well as an air rifle, an air gun, a BB gun, a slingshot and a bow and arrow.” It was last updated in January 1990.

By comparison, the DEC’s regulations recognize rifles, pistols, shotguns and specific types of airguns as firearms, but doesn’t include longbows which are used for deer hunting.

Due to this difference, Hunters for Deer is suing saying the Town of Smithtown’s required 500-foot setback from the nearest dwelling to discharge a firearm is illegal, citing that New York State reduced the setback for longbows from 500 to 150 feet in 2014.

The difference in the laws illegally restrains hunters from shooting deer within Smithtown or face possible prosecution, according to the lawsuit filed Dec. 7, and denies them their civil right to participate in hunting activity.

“I have a lot of property owners from Smithtown who call me and ask me to hunt their property, but when they find out the setback they don’t want to do it,” Tessitore said. “It causes the property owners to not want to cause any conflict with their community and get tickets for an otherwise legal activity.”

Christian Killoran, a Westhampton Beach attorney representing Hunters for Deer, sent a letter to the Town of Smithtown advising it of the issues with its code, according to Tessitore, but no action was taken.

Nicole Garguilo, newly appointed town spokeswoman, said that town attorney Matthew Jakubowski was unable to comment on pending litigation.

The town’s response to the lawsuit filed Dec. 18 stated the town was advised of the hunting organization’s position, but its “actions were lawful and within statutory constitutional authority.”

Tessitore said his group previously filed a lawsuit against the Village of Sag Harbor when it attempted to make a law that would have banned hunting within its borders, getting village officials to revisit and later change it. Tessitore said he hopes this lawsuit will have similar effect on the Town of Smithtown, causing town offices to amend town code to be more inline with the state DEC’s regulations.

“The only way to get a municipality’s attention is through a lawsuit and let a court decide who is right and who is wrong,” he said.