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3rd District

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle is being challenged by Democrat Alfred Ianucci to represent the 3rd District. Photos by Desirée Keegan and from Facebook

By Desirée Keegan

An architectural woodworker is challenging incumbent Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), focusing on the issues of road repair, zombie homes and government transparency as they relate to the 3rd Council District.

Alfred Ianacci, 61, of Lake Ronkonkoma, is running on the Democratic and Working Families lines. He grew up in Long Island City, Queens and has lived in Lake Ronkonkoma for 31 years.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle was on site for the tearing down of several zombie houses this year. File photo from Town of Brookhaven

“The feedback I get is people are not happy with Brookhaven,” he said. He attributed that to a lack of trust in town officials, and called for more government transparency.

LaValle, who was grew up in Centereach, said he jumped into office four years ago wanting to bring government back to the people.

Representing what he calls the “blue collar, middle class area” of Brookhaven, the councilman said his residents have a different mindset than most.

“If we had a pothole in front of our house, we’d throw some dirt in it, throw a cone over it and we wouldn’t call anybody, because we take care of the problem ourselves,” he said during a debate at TBR News Media’s Setauket office in October. “That’s one thing I’ve been trying to broach being in office for four years — trying to bring government to the people and show them that we’re here. I’m here hosting events just to get out there so people know me and know I’m not running away from issues.”

Ianacci, said road repair is “a disaster” in the town. He also said the town needs to improve its drainage systems.

“There are places that flood with three or four inches of rain,” he said. “We have to really do a complete re-evaluation of our storm drain system throughout Brookhaven.”

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle is running for his third term. Photo by Desirée Keegan

LaValle said he knows the real issues, and said growing up in Centereach helped him to understand them.

“The big thing I know growing up in the area is that we were always traveling because we didn’t have fields, and the fields we did have weren’t very good,” said LaValle, who played on the Centereach basketball team in high school. “But now to have Selden Park in our own backyard, people can grow up and be proud of what we have.”

The councilman helped secure 24 acres behind Hawkins Path Elementary School, where four baseball fields, two multi-purpose fields, walking trails and a playground are currently being constructed. Modeling it off of Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park, he said he’d also like to incorporate a piece from Port Jefferson’s Harborfront Park — an ice rink. With Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) helping to purchase the property and state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) securing a $1 million grant, the construction is well on its way. He said he’s hoping to see it become a generational park.

“You start off as a baby, your mom is walking you in the stroller, and the kids gets a little older and they go to the playground, then they get a little bit older and they’re playing on the fields, then they get a little older they go off to college and they come back and they’re running, and then they have a family, come back and start the whole thing over again,” he said. “Any day you drive by Heritage Park there’s tons of people — something’s always going on — so where as the Centereach Pool is a condensed area, this was our last opportunity for some open space.”

Lavalle was also involved in work done at Centereach Pool, adding a $100,000 spray park, reconstructing the basketball courts, adding a sun shelter, pickleball courts and beach volleyball. The restrooms are slated for improvements next.

Owners watch their dogs play at Selden Dog Park. which Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle helped secure a grant to upgrade. File photo by Kyle Barr

“We hooked up with the Middle Country school district and the athletic director to host basketball tournaments in the middle of the summer to keep kids off the streets,” he said. “We didn’t realize the turnout. The families are happy the kids have something to do and they get to come and see how nice it is now.”

More than fixing up parkland, Ianacci said he is concerned with zombie houses. The challenger said the town is “plagued” by abandoned, dilapidated homes. He said vacant houses could be salvaged instead of torn down, saying it would help the town develop affordable housing to keep residents from leaving. Brookhaven Town announced last month a similar plan is already being put into motion, fixing the blighted properties and selling them to veterans and first-time homebuyers at lower rates.

Other efforts touted by LaValle relating specifically to his council district include securing $2 million in grants over the last four years, part of which was a $25,000 grant for upgrading the Selden Dog Park; starting the Run the Farm race to raise money for the nonprofit Hobbes Farm once it began losing government funding; and revitalizing Middle Country Road by connecting parking lots, adding more green space as businesses like McDonald’s and White Castle receive upgrades and others like Five Guys and Guitar Center move in.

Democratic challenger Alfred Ianacci is running to represent Brookhaven Town’s 3rd Council District. Photo from Facebook

“It goes from the street, to the sidewalk to a parking lot — you feel like you’re in the city,” he said. “New businesses are coming in and rezoning and we’re trying to bring that green space back while also keeping people off Middle Country Road.”

Ianacci’s focus continues to be on more townwide issues, like the expected closure of the town landfill in the next decade, and fighting against the “brain drain.”

“We have so many skilled people who work in Brookhaven,” he said. “But they can’t live in Brookhaven. Our taxes are going to go up.”

He said on many issues he had no specific recommendations for improvements, but would study each problem and seek solutions.

LaValle said he hopes to continue to keep doing what he’s doing. The councilman said he or a staff member attends every civic meeting. He said he speaks regularly to the Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, churches and townspeople to find out what the real problems are.

“I try to make myself available to help me do this job,” LaValle said. “And I’m proud to have the opportunity to do this in the area I grew up. Right away you notice issues while you’re out there talking to people about their problems, what it is that’s bothering them. Whether it’s a pothole in front of their house or business development on Middle Country Road, that’s what I need to know. And there’s nothing more rewarding than to go out into your community that you’re so entrenched in and create the change that the residents have been talking about, and it’s for my friends, my family and my neighbors.”

Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern. File photo by Rohma Abbas

U.S. Rep. Steve Israel’s announcement that would he would not see another term in the 3rd District, which spans from the North Shore of Queens through parts of Smithtown, has sparked discussion across the region about who will succeed him. Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) is the latest to throw his hat into the race for the seat.

Israel (D-Huntington) made the decision two weeks ago that he would not be seeking re-election in November, and legislators and lawmakers from across Long Island have been declaring their intention to fight for his seat. This week, Stern said he believes his record sets him apart from the rest as a candidate who listens to his neighbors.

“My record tells a story, it highlights issues that are important to me,” Stern said in a phone interview. “When my neighbors see what’s happening in Washington, they think their voices are not being heard. I know I will be the congressman that hears them.”

He said his record has consistently supported the local issues that are important to the residents of the 3rd District and many pieces of legislation he has drafted have become state and national models.

Stern said that with his family in mind, he created the Safe and Sustainable Procurement Act, which bans baby products made with BPA, a chemical found in plastics that can seep into the food or beverages inside the plastic containers and have harmful health effects.

“It was the first legislative initiative banning these type of products throughout the entire country,” he said. “I was proud that this local bill was used a model for other jurisdictions.”

This act was eventually adopted by the New York State Senate, the European Union and the Food and Drug Administration.

The Protect Our Fallen Heroes Act is another piece of legislation Stern created that expanded to the national level. The purpose of this act, he said, was to protect the sanctity of funerals, specifically military funerals, from protesters.

Stern said this is now the adopted policy of all national cemeteries. The federal version of the bill, Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act, was first enacted by Congress in 2012, two years after Stern’s original bill was drafted.

Recently, Stern worked with Israel to adopt Stern’s Housing Our Homeless Heroes Act into a federal bill to provide housing for homeless veterans.

Stern also said many of his initiatives were accomplished with bipartisan support on the county level.

“I have a proven leadership, working with colleagues from both parties,” he said. “The way that I have been able to do my job, it clearly shows I am a representative that is sorely needed in D.C.”

Israel has served in Congress for the last 15 years, and said that after this year he feels it is his time to step down and make room for a new perspective.

“While I will miss this place and the people I have had the privilege to serve, I am looking forward to spending more time home,” he said in a statement. “Simply put, it’s time to pass on the torch.”

Stern said Israel would be missed, but also said he is eager to continue his legacy, which includes continued support for veterans.

“I have had the great privilege of working with Congressman Steve Israel for the past 10 years,” Stern said in an email. “He has been an outstanding advocate for our community and especially for our men and women currently serving our great nation.”

Stern gave Israel kudos for his collaboration on the legislator’s Housing Our Homeless Heroes Act and said it was an honor to work alongside him.

Aside from Stern, Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) are among the North Shore politicians who intend to campaign for the seat. From Nassau County, North Hempstead Town Board member Anna Kaplan threw her hat into the ring.

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U.S. Rep. Steve Israel is stepping aside at the end of the year, declining to run for another term in the House this November, after what will be 16 years as the Democratic representative for the Huntington and Smithtown areas. But his departure will affect more than just western Suffolk County.

Long Island residents in general should be paying attention to the 3rd Congressional District seat in the coming year. Our officials at the federal and state levels work with their neighboring colleagues to get things done that benefit Long Island — sometimes in a quid pro quo sort of way. That means that no matter the elected body or who our representative is, the priorities and the character of the person who is elected in the next district over from us are important. And with Israel gone, no matter who is elected to replace him, Suffolk County will have two longtime congressman exiting in two years, after Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) unseated Democrat Tim Bishop in 2014.

That’s not to say that new blood is a bad thing.

Zeldin kept himself busy during his first year in the House, authoring several bills. Most recently, he introduced the Earnings Contingent Education Loans (ExCEL) Act of 2015, which aims to help young people manage their federal student loan debt by making the repayment system more flexible, with payment amounts based on the borrower’s salary. And in interviews with this newspaper, Zeldin has called being a newcomer a positive — party leadership supports their freshmen, he said, because they want to help them retain their seats.

We appreciate Israel’s long service to our community. That being said, electing a new point of view to Congress has the potential to be a good thing for Long Island, which is in a state of flux as we try to plan our economic and environmental future.

3rd District candidates, all eyes are on you.

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