Village Beacon Record

The fish church is undergoing renovations. Photo by Erika Karp

More than 10 years in the making and the plans to renovate Rocky Point’s Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, known fondly as the fish church, are finally getting off the ground.

To signify the start of the massive, $1.5 million renovation to the parish hall, the church celebrated with a ground-breaking ceremony on June 14. Construction should begin in a week or so.

The original parish hall, located at the back of the church and constructed in 1972, will be mostly knocked down and replaced, with 83 percent of the hall going under new construction. The updated hall will offer large, flexible spaces that can be subdivided for multiple meetings, and high ceilings for indoor play and congregational activities.

A new roof and energy efficient windows will also be installed.

In addition, a second entrance will be constructed, which will eliminate congestion at the original entrance to the church, along with an improved kitchen and food pantry facility for the Invited INN Soup Kitchen that operates out of the church. Throughout the last 10 years, the congregation raised approximately $730,000 — almost half of the money — needed to fund the restorations.

“When I think of this new space, it’s not just designing a bigger space, it’s significant events that will take place,” Pastor Jeffrey Kolbo said. “I see support groups, bible studies, all benefiting from this new space.”

While the space is already used for Sunday school, youth programs and a meeting place for various organizations, Kolbo thinks additional community groups will be able to utilize it.

The current building is 6,658 square feet, and the addition will add 2,211 square feet. The new main room will seat approximately 200 people and will be about 3,000 square feet.

Carol Moor, who runs the Invited INN soup kitchen, is very excited about the new upgrades to the kitchen and pantry. She said the church has generously provided the space throughout the years.

“A new, more efficient and upgraded kitchen will be great, since we cook everything in-house, from scratch,” Moor said. “And a bigger space also means that we can now host more than one meal per week and feed more people in need.”

The soup kitchen currently feeds about 70 to 80 people. However, after the renovations, the space will be able to hold around 200 people. The updates will also provide additional storage space to hold food for the soup kitchen.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota, above, said Winston Rose and his brother Uriel Rose purchased drugs from Robert Maldonado for $3.50 per bag — a full dollar cheaper than last year’s whole sale price. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Suffolk County police, alongside the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor of New York City, united to bust a heroin ring operating on Long Island, officials announced on Wednesday.

A wiretap investigation, conducted by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office and county police narcotics unit, lead to the arrests and indictment of 14 individuals involved in the ring, including alleged leaders Winston Rose, 35, of Deer Park and his brother, Uriel Rose, 31, of Bay Shore. Residents from Rocky Point, Coram and Northport were also charged.

According to District Attorney Tom Spota, between the months of April and May, Robert Maldonado, 28, of the Bronx, allegedly delivered more than 20,000 bags of heroin from the borough to the Rose brothers on Long Island. Kenny Gonzalez, of Bay Shore, also supplied the brothers with heroin for their drug operation.

“The source of the heroin that we see flowing into Suffolk is primarily coming from the City of New York and more often than not, from the Bronx,” Spota said following the arraignments on Wednesday.

The Rose brothers were indicted for operating as major traffickers, as investigators claim they sold heroin and cocaine in Suffolk communities and elsewhere from around Dec. 4, 2014 to June 4, 2015. The brothers sold around 325 to 500 bags daily for $10.

Phil Murphy, the attorney representing Winston Rose, said he did not see an issue with his client’s business when he visited. He also said his client had rental property and rented available gyms among other materials for the business.

Calls to attorneys for Uriel Rose, Maldonado and Gonzalez were not immediately returned.

Winston Rose was on parole for possession of a weapon at the time of his arrest. In addition, he has nine prior felony and misdemeanor convictions while his brother has six prior misdemeanor convictions. Four of these convictions were for drugs.

According to Spota, the brothers posed as businessmen and allegedly used an event and catering business based out of Deer Park as a front to peddle drugs.

The brothers, as well as Desiree Dietz, 33, of Rocky Point; Emily Ruiz, 24, of Deer Park; Daniel Demaio, 23, of Northport; James Lantero, 41, of Bay Shore; Edward Molewski, 47, of East Islip; Charles Hennings, 41 of Coram and Dillon Noseda, 26, of Northport were arraigned in Riverhead as well. The individuals, along with five others, have been charged with conspiracy in the second degree, a Class B felony in the state of New York.

Noseda is accused of being a major seller of heroin in the Village of Northport and the surrounding communities. Ian Fitzgerald, Noseda’s attorney, said his client denied being a major seller in the case. In a phone interview, he said his client only knew Winston Rose for about two months.

Attorney information for Dietz, Ruiz, Demaio, Lantero, Molewski, and Hennings was unavailable.

“Somebody and some day they are all going to know that they’re never going to see the light of day if they’re convicted,” Spota said.

Bail for Winston Rose was set at $3 million cash or $6 million bond, while Uriel Rose’s bail was set at $2 million cash, or $4 million bond.

If convicted as major traffickers, the Rose’s face a minimum sentence of 15 to 25 years, to a maximum life sentence, according to Spota.

Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said solving individual cases such as this case, might not “end the crisis,” but have a significant local impact.

According to Special Agent James Hunt, of the DEA, heroin related deaths have increased 172 percent from 2003 to 2013.

Spota attributes their success to the collaborative efforts of all law enforcement officials who were involved. Brennan agreed and said that collaboration will help overcome the distribution of heroin.

“We are now facing a huge heroin problem,” she said. “The only way to beat it is the way we’re doing it. Step by step case by case joining hands and not just us alone but with the collaboration of many others.”

Samantha Brindley, left, and Rebecca Hayman are Miller Place High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Samantha Brindley, Miller Place High School’s 2015 valedictorian, and Rebecca Hayman, the salutatorian, are more than just two success stories from Miller Place — they’re also the best of friends.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else but here,” Brindley said.  “My parents both graduated from Miller Place, and I’ve met all of my best friends here.”

Brindley is graduating with a GPA of 100.97, and Hayman is graduating with a GPA of 100.33.

During their time at Miller Place, Brindley and Hayman participated in multiple clubs together including mathletes, service club, Foreign Language Honor Society and National Honor Society. They also took several Advance Placement courses together, English and Composition, Spanish and Calculus.

Brindley played for the Miller Place High School varsity field hockey team for two years, where she and her team won county’s and the Long Island championships. She was also a member of Natural Helpers and was the secretary of the National Foreign Language Honor Society.

Outside of school, Brindley volunteered at Mather Memorial Hospital where she recently reached more than 400 service hours, and Stony Brook University Hospital, where she worked in the nutrition department.

In 2013, Brindley went to the University of California, Berkeley, for 10 days to attend a medical program where she learned basic triage skills.

Brindley will attend the University of Miami in the fall to study neuroscience.

“It’s very rare, in my 18 years here, that I find a student who had such a clear idea of what they wanted to do in their freshman year,” Marisa Raptis, Brindley’s guidance counselor, said. “Samantha was always interested in neuroscience. To have that distinct determination and find avenues to explore it is very rare.”

Hayman feels like her four years at Miller Place flew by.

“The journey went so quickly, I feel like we just started here yesterday,” she said.

Hayman was involved in the Future Business Leaders of America club, where she held the position of treasurer.

As a dancer, she performed in the high school’s variety show for each of her four years at the school. In addition, Hayman was a member of winter and spring track and field for two years and was the event coordinator for the National Foreign Language Honor Society.

Outside of school, Hayman is actively involved at Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Port Jefferson, where she worked with the parish outreach group and was an altar server.

Hayman is very interested in business and will be furthering her studies in the fall at Stony Brook University.

“She is a great kid, a pleasure to work with,” Meghan Gallo, Hayman’s guidance counselor said. “She never shied away from a difficult course, and she exhausted our business courses here.”

Missing child found
A 4-year-old boy went missing at West Beach in Port Jefferson on the night of June 16, and wandered more than a mile away from his parents.
According to Port Jefferson Village code enforcement officer Lt. John Borrero, the boy’s mother reported him missing around 7:30 p.m.
Both Port Jefferson and Belle Terre village constables responded to the incident, as did the Suffolk County Police Department.
Borrero said there were three police boats and a helicopter searching for the child before a woman found him around 9 p.m. near the Port Jefferson ferry terminal.

Body slam
A 29-year-old Port Jefferson man was arrested on June 13 and charged with harassment after he hit a police car with his body while on Woodhull Avenue in Port Jefferson Station.

Sunny disposition
A South Columbia Street resident in Port Jefferson Station reported on June 14 that an iPod touch and sunglasses had been stolen from their 2004 Jeep.

Fight club
A group of individuals started a fight while on Thames Street in Port Jefferson Station on June 12. There have been no arrests.

Pop some tags
An unknown person broke into the John T. Mather Memorial Hospital thrift shop in Port Jefferson and stole cash from the cash register at some point between 3 p.m. on June 9 and 6:50 a.m. on June 10.

Fore!
A complainant reported being punched in the head during a physical dispute at approximately 6 p.m. on June 14 while at the Willow Creek Golf & Country Club in Mount Sinai.

Sinner
A television and camera mount were stolen from the Mount Sinai Congregational United Church of Christ at some point between June 10 and June 13.

Watching you
An unknown person broke into a vacant home on Westbury Drive in Sound Beach between June 8 at 2 p.m. and June 9 at 9:30 a.m., and stole a surveillance system and cable modems.

A pro
A 2005 Acura was stolen from a North Washington Avenue home in Centereach between 12:30 and 8:30 a.m. on June 13. A GoPro camera was inside the vehicle.

Money mania
A 46-year-old Ronkonkoma man was arrested and charged with third-degree robbery after he took money from a man while at a 7-Eleven in Centereach.

Broken and robbed
A complainant reported that their 2008 Mercedes broke down on Middle Country Road on June 14, and upon returning to the vehicle they discovered the trunk was open and numerous items had been stolen, including a laptop, iPad, iPod, printer and credit cards.

Household goods
A Loma Place residence in Huntington was robbed of furniture and appliances on June 12.

Online shopping?
An unknown person took a MacBook Pro and assorted clothing from a 2015 Audi parked on Pond Path in South Setauket on June 13.

Sharp objects
A 30-year-old Centereach man was arrested for petit larceny on June 11 after he stole a knife from a Walmart.

Mute swans peruse the Setauket Harbor waters. Photo by Maria Hoffman

By Susan Risoli

Mute swans might soon have an easier relationship with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, if a bill recently passed through the York State Legislature is signed into law.

The legislation was written to require DEC to provide scientific documentation that mute swans are a threat to the environment. Also, before taking any action to control the state’s mute swan population, the DEC would have to hold at least two public hearings and give the public at least 45 days to comment on its plans for dealing with the birds.

The legislation package passed the state Assembly June 9 and had passed the state Senate on April 22.

Mute swans, a non-native species from Europe, are considered an invasive species, according to the state DEC. Trumpeter swans, also found in New York, are native to the region and are not included in the DEC’s management plan.

The agency’s proposed mute swan management plan, released in March, called for limiting the statewide population to 800 birds. By 2002, there were more than 2,000 mute swans downstate and 200 upstate, the report said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the mute swan legislation was a response to public concern “that had been raised, particularly about the lack of appropriate science to justify this eradication of a very beautiful animal” that inspires “a sense of curiosity about the environment,” particularly among children.

In April, Englebright and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), also a member of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, sent DEC’s Bureau of Wildlife a letter saying the agency disregarded the state Legislature’s requests for “full documentation of the scientific basis for management decisions” and requests for “less reliance on lethal management measures. The DEC has failed to provide compelling scientific information as to why such an aggressive management strategy is being pursued.”

DEC spokesman Jomo Miller said in an emailed statement Tuesday that the agency is reviewing the letter from Englebright and Cymbrowitz “as part of its review of the comments received” on the draft management plan. The DEC hopes to adopt a final plan later this summer, Miller said.

“At that time, we will provide a response to the principal comments received, as we did for comments on the first draft of the plan,” he said.

In an interview, Englebright said the legislation is “not just an exercise in willfulness on our part but an exercise in democracy,” and it reflects “a very high interest” from the public about the fate of the swans.

The legislation would require DEC to “give priority to nonlethal management techniques” for controlling the mute swan population. The proposed plan said it does not advocate any specific method of controlling the population, and because many people object to the use of lethal control methods, especially killing adult birds, the DEC will use “nonlethal” methods where practical and timely to achieve the management objectives, the report said.

Research shows that mute swans “can significantly reduce the availability of submerged aquatic vegetation in wetland ecosystems” depending on the number of swans relative to the size of the area being considered, the spokesperson said.

The DEC said in the draft management plan that mute swans hurt the environment by eating and uprooting large quantities of plants that are food for fish and other wildlife. Swan feces have high levels of coliform bacteria, which can make waters unsafe for drinking, swimming and shell fishing, the document said. Their presence near airports poses “a serious threat to aviation,” the plan said. It also said that territorial swans have been known to attack people and other birds.

Builds upon revitalization efforts and Connect LI

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, center, along with regional leaders, announced a new regional plan on Tuesday. Photo from the county executive’s office

As the percentage of youth on Long Island declines, regional leaders are determined to entice young people to move in and stay, but their plan comes with a price.

On Tuesday, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and several regional leaders, including Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), announced they are seeking $350 million to fund the Long Island Innovation Zone, I-Zone, plan. I-Zone aims to connect Long Island’s transit-oriented downtown areas, like New Village in Patchogue, the Meadows at Yaphank and the planned Ronkonkoma Hub, to institutions like Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

The I-Zone plan emphasizes the use of a bus rapid transit, or BRT, system  that runs north to south and would connect Stony Brook University and Patchogue. There will also be a paralleling hiking and biking trail, and the system will serve as a connection between the Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma and Montauk Long Island Rail Road lines.

The goal is to make Long Island more appealing to the younger demographic and avoid local economic downturns.

According to the Long Island Index, from 2000 to 2009, the percentage of people aged 25-34 decreased by 15 percent. The majority of these individuals are moving to major cities or places where transportation is readily accessible.

“We must challenge ourselves because if we don’t, we have an Island at risk,” Romaine said. Government officials acknowledged that without younger people living on Long Island the population will be unable to sustain the local economy. Fewer millennials means there are less people who will purchase property and contribute to the success of businesses in the area.

The proposal comes after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) call for regional planning.

The plan also builds upon the Ronkonkoma Hub plan, with the installation of sewers and a new parking area. The I-Zone proposal claims to improve Long Island’s water quality, as funding will help connect sewers through Islip downtown areas to the Southwest Sewer District.

Additionally, the plan calls for the construction of a new airport terminal on the north side of Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip and for the relocation of the Yaphank train station in closer proximity to Brookhaven National Laboratory.

“We have all that stuff [access to recreational activities, education center and downtown areas] here but we don’t have a connection. We don’t have any linked together,” said Justin Meyers, Suffolk’s assistant deputy county executive for communications.

Bellone and Romaine, as well as Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley, Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter (R), Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Long Island Regional Planning Council Chairman John Cameron, Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri, Vice President of Development and Community Relations at CSHL Charles Prizzi, Chief Planning Officer of the Long Island Rail Road Elisa Picca, Director of BNL Doon Gibbs, and founder of Suburban Millennial Institute Jeff Guillot, were involved with the I-Zone proposal.

If funding for the project is received, construction could begin in approximately two years, Meyers said, adding that constructing the BRT and the hiking and biking trial would take as few as five years.

Bellone said that without younger people moving in, the trend could lead to the Island’s economic stagnation.

“We are aging faster than any other region in our country,” he said. “The inevitable result of that will be an ever-growing population that naturally is pulling more social services infrastructure.”

Faces off against incumbent Sarah Anker for 6th District seat

Steve Tricarico photo by Erika Karp
Steve Tricarico photo by Erika Karp
Steve Tricarico photo by Erika Karp

After years of working in the public sector and for local government, Republican Steve Tricarico, Brookhaven Town’s deputy highway superintendent, is making his first run for elected office.

The 30-year-old Wading River native will face off against incumbent Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) for the 6th District seat in November. In a recent interview, Tricarico touted his years of experience working within local governments and his fiscally conservative approach when it comes to budgeting.

Bettering the county’s finances is a main focus of his campaign, Tricarico said. He was critical of the county increasing departmental fees, over relying on sales taxes and borrowing to pay for its operating expenses. He said the county, like its residents, should be living within its means and cut its borrowing.

“The county just doesn’t seem to be getting that message,” he said.

Tricarico said he took issue with how the county overestimated its sales tax revenue in 2014 by 1.5 percent, causing an $18.1 million shortfall, according to a June Fitch Ratings report. Despite the shortfall, the county budgeted for a 4.87 percent increase in sales tax for 2015.

Tricarico said this practice is “hurting our ability to function,” and if elected, he wouldn’t budget for any increase in sales tax, as to not overestimate.

Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman John Jay LaValle described Tricarico as the “ideal candidate,” and one that people — from Dan Losquadro to former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy — have sought out to work with.

“He has really excelled everywhere he has gone,” LaValle said.

Prior to working for the town, Tricarico worked as a district manager for LIPA, liaising between government officials and constituents. He also worked under Levy in the intergovernmental affairs unit. Tricarico said the jobs provided him with the best background as he understands local government, constituents and budgets.

Sarah Anker file photo by Erika Karp
Sarah Anker file photo by Erika Karp

Tricarico, who still lives in Wading River with his wife, Francine, said their two-year-old daughter, Charlotte, served as an inspiration for him to run as he wants to leave the county better than how he found it for her and for future generations.

As an adjunct professor at Farmingdale State College, Tricarico said he hears from students all of the time about how they would like to stay on Long Island, but just can’t because of the high-cost of living and lack of good jobs.

So if elected, he said he would like to explore ways to provide additional incentives to local businesses and create an economy that grows jobs. All options must be on the table when looking at how to better local government and its economy, Tricarico insisted, stating that he would explore the privatization of some government functions, like health and social services.

“As county representatives there is only so much we can do, but in order to start keeping good businesses here on the Island, we need to make sure that our county legislator, especially in the 6th District, is representing the constituents of the 6th District,” he said. “In my opinion, the current county legislator is rubber-stamping every policy that comes across her desk.”

In a phone interview, Anker said she is focusing on her responsibilities as a county legislator. She said she is grateful that she has had the opportunity to serve the people of the 6th District and would like to continue to do so.

Like Tricarico, Anker said she believes the county needs to start borrowing less. She described taking office in 2011 during one of the worst fiscal challenges anyone has faced  — a time when the county didn’t have much of a choice but to borrow.

“I don’t think he understands the government process,” she said.

Anker also defended her position on creating task forces to look at problems. Tricarico described this as creating “bureaucracy to solve problems.”

But Anker said the groups focus government resources on an issue and create plans to fix things. For example, the SAVE Hotline, which provides schools a direct line to police in the case of an active shooter situation, came out of task force discussions.

“I don’t wait for something to happen,” Anker said. “I actively and proactively [look at] what needs to be focused on, what needs to be changed.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine makes friends with a dog at the town animal shelter. Photo from Brookhaven Town

By Talia Amorosano

Brookhaven Town is reducing adoption costs at its animal shelter this month.

According to a recent town press release, the Brookhaven Animal Shelter and Adoption Center on Horseblock Road will offer discounted adoption fees through June. While the fees are normally $137 for a dog and $125 for a cat, they have been dropped to $60.

The lower fee includes a free neuter or spay for the animal as well as a free microchip, vaccinations, heartworm test and animal license.

The reduced price is partly the result of renovations that are currently taking place at the shelter.  The shelter’s website notes that “pet overpopulation is of great concern” and that it is especially important for some of the animals to be adopted during the next four to six weeks because kennels will be renovated during that timeframe.

The shelter has also invested in new air conditioners, freshly painted walls and new floors.

But Martin Haley, Brookhaven Town’s commissioner of general services, said adoption discounts like this one are common throughout the year regardless of special circumstances like construction and renovation, because the shelter staff is constantly trying to incentivize adoption.

As of Monday, there were 78 animals in the shelter.

Haley said the number fluctuates every day and the shelter’s goal is to keep the population manageable. He said the animals can become difficult to manage at numbers of 80 to 100, but it varies on a case-by-case basis with animals’ spatial and behavioral needs.

According to Haley, most of the animals currently housed at the shelter are dogs, but there are also about 30 cats and kittens available for adoption.

The shelter is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays; from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays; from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays; and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. It is closed on Wednesdays.

Anyone interested in adopting a pet may call the shelter at 631-451-6950 or visit www.brookhaven.org/animalshelter for more information.

Environmental advocates call for the banning of microbeads in order to protect waterways like the Long Island Sound. from left, Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Dr. Larry Swanson of Stony Brook University, Dr. Artie Kopelman of Coastal Research Education Society Long Island, George Hoffman of Setauket Harbor Protection Committee, Rob Weltner of Operation SPLASH, Matt Grove of Surfrider, Enrico Nardone of Seatuck Environmental, and Katie Muether of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society. Photo from Maureen Murphy

When it comes to water pollution, size does not matter.

That’s why a group of environmental advocates gathered along the shoreline of the Long Island Sound in Stony Brook last week to call for state legislation that would ban the tiny but potentially harmful microbeads in personal care products.

The rally was organized to coincide with June 8’s World Oceans Day and zeroed in on the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which would ban personal care products made with the tiny plastic pellets called microbeads, which advocates said are hurting waterways and wildlife because New York’s wastewater treatment plants are not equipped to filter them prior to the water’s release into the environment.

The legislation passed the Assembly in April but has remained idle in the Senate.

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Republican Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Tom O’Mara (R-Big Flats), with 37 cosponsors — a total that surpasses the 32 votes it needs to pass.

William Cooke, director of government relations for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, helped orchestrate the rally and called on Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) to use his new role as majority leader to help ensure a microbead ban passes before legislative session ends June 17.

“While microbeads are small, the problem they are creating is very large,” Cooke said. “The solution is unbelievably simple and absolutely free. The answer is to take them out of our products now. This legislation currently has more support than is needed to pass. The only question is will the new Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan allow it to move forward.”

The New York State Attorney General reported that 19 tons of plastic microbeads enter the wastewater stream in New York annually, and the tiny beads are passing through treatment plants on Long Island and throughout the state. Plastic microbeads in state waters accumulate toxins, are consumed by fish, and can work their way up the food chain, putting public health at risk.

“The Microbead-Free Waters Act has a clear pathway to passage. If it’s not brought up for a vote, it’s a clear sign that industry has once again silenced the majority of New York’s state senators,” said Saima Anjam, environmental health director at Environmental Advocates of New York, who was at the rally. “New Yorkers expect more from new leadership. … Senators Flanagan and O’Mara need to allow a simple up or down vote on bills supported by a majority of members.”

Flanagan’s office declined to comment on the matter.

Late last year, Suffolk County committed to studying the health and economic impacts of banning microbeads on the county level to the praise of county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who argued that Suffolk needed to follow the likes of municipalities like Illinois, which was the first state to outright ban the sale of cosmetics containing plastic microbeads.

“On a macro level, there is no doubt that microbeads are finding their way into our nation’s rivers, lakes and oceans,” said Hahn, chairwoman of the Legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee. “What we need to know is to what extent, locally, these additives [impact] our environment and, if corrective action is needed, what ramifications would be expected.”

Education advocates march into the office of state Sen. John Flanagan on Thursday calling for the passage of the New York State Dream Act. Photo by Phil Corso

The Smithtown office of state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) had a line going out the door last week as advocates called on him and his fellow lawmakers to pass the New York State Dream Act before legislative session ended.

Dream Act advocates congregate outside Sen. John Flanagan's office Thursday in prayer. Photo by Phil Corso
Dream Act advocates congregate outside Sen. John Flanagan’s office Thursday in prayer. Photo by Phil Corso

Various faith leaders from congregations across Long Island gathered in prayer outside Flanagan’s office on Thursday with hopes of nudging the recently appointed Senate majority leader to help pass the Dream Act before session ended June 17. The advocates held up signs in protest of the state’s sluggish pace in making the legislation a reality for the nearly 146,000 undocumented immigrants across New York who graduated from public high schools but are unable to access federally-funded financial aid for college.

The bill, which has passed in the Assembly in February by a vote of 87-45, would open up state aid for the students.

Peggy Fort, a retired teacher and social justice chair of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook, stood in the crowd outside Flanagan’s office Thursday and said the state had to act before thousands of up-and-coming immigrant children are locked out of the higher education process.

“Allowing our New York State ‘dreamers’ who are full of courage, creativity and intellect to access funding for higher education is a way of ensuring the future of New York State,” she said. “It makes absolutely no sense to continue this policy of no action. But I think we will be able to turn that around.”

A June 2015 report from the Fiscal Policy Institute found there were 526,000 immigrants living on Long Island, making up 18 percent of the population and 20 percent of the economic output. Of those immigrants, almost 100,000 are undocumented — about half living in Suffolk County and half in Nassau.

Sister Rosalie Carven delivers petitions to state Sen. John Flanagan's Chief of Staff Ray Bernardo on Thursday. Photo by Phil Corso
Sister Rosalie Carven delivers petitions to state Sen. John Flanagan’s Chief of Staff Ray Bernardo on Thursday. Photo by Phil Corso

Victoria Daza, of workers advocacy group Long Island Jobs with Justice, said Flanagan was an ideal Long Island lawmaker to head up the Dream Act push, as his North Shore district encompasses educational hubs Stony Brook University and Suffolk County Community College. Daza said it was unacceptable that Flanagan has yet to publicly support the legislation in the four years since it was first introduced, leaving students to foot their full college bill with each passing year.

“The Dream Act cannot wait,” she said. “Education is a human right and these kids should not be excluded.”

Flanagan’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Soon after a short prayer vigil outside, the throng of advocates marched into Flanagan’s office along with more than 100 petition signatures. Sister Rosalie Carven, a social justice coordinator with the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood, walked into the office with conviction before handing over the paperwork and asking Flanagan Chief of Staff Ray Bernardo to deliver their message.

“It can’t stop here. Everyone here is an advocate for the passage of this,” she said. “The time is now. The job has to get done. It’s discriminatory to keep kids out of higher education.”

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