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Asharoken

Asharoken Village beach. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers rescued five men after their boat struck a rock and began taking on water in the Long Island Sound Sept. 9.

Francisco Aguilar and four friends were on a fishing trip in a 20-foot Pro Line runabout when the boat struck a submerged rock, damaging the engine’s lower unit and breaching the hull, causing the vessel to take on water.

Alerted by a 911 call, Marine Bureau officers responded aboard Marine Bravo. Marine Delta, the U.S. Coast Guard, Huntington Harbormaster, Asharoken Police Department and a SCPD helicopter also were dispatched. Asharoken police spotted the disabled vessel from shore and guided Marine Bravo to the location.

Arriving about seven minutes after being dispatched, Marine Bureau officers Charles Marchiselli and Erik Johnson took Aguilar, 34, and the four other men, Walter Sanchez, 19; and brothers Banos Villalobos, 25; Jose Villalobos, 29; and Elmer Villalobos, 22, aboard the police boat. The Marine Bureau crew began efforts to keep the men’s boat from sinking, securing the vessel to the police boat and setting up a dewatering pump. Once the vessel was stabilized and in tow, the five men, all from Brentwood, were transported to Soundview Ramp in Northport.

Conditions at the time of the rescue were northwest winds of 15 knots and 3 to 4 foot seas. There were no injuries and all of the men refused medical attention. Aguilar was issued two summonses for violations of the New York State Navigation Laws.

The Suffolk Police Marine Bureau reminds boaters to check the marine weather forecast before boating, make sure that properly-sized life jackets are available for all passengers, and to check that all legally-required safety equipment is carried aboard, serviceable and accessible.

Asharoken Village beach. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers rescued three people from the Long Island Sound after their sailboat overturned Sunday, July 23.

Marine Bureau Officers Keith Walters and Erik Johnson, aboard Marine Bravo, responded to a VHF call for a capsized sailboat with three people in the water in the Long Island Sound, approximately ¾ of a mile off Asharoken Beach according to police. When officers arrived, they pulled the occupants, William Bradford, 58, his son, Joseph, 24, both of Asharoken, and Brianna Bowlry, 16, aboard their vessel

Officers brought the sailors and their boat to shore. All three sailboat occupants were wearing life jackets and no one was injured.

Mary (Pam) Pierce and Ian Jablonski are both hoping to continue serving the Asharoken community. Photo from Pam Pierce

By Victoria Espinoza

The Village of Asharoken government is looking to stay the course, as two incumbents on the village board are running for another term to serve their community.

Deputy Mayor Mary (Pam) Pierce and Trustee Ian Jablonski announced this week they will be running for re-election in the Asharoken village election June 20, seeking a fourth and third term, respectively.  Both are members of the Asharoken Integrity Party.

Pierce, a 32-year Asharoken resident, is a retired business executive and owner and has served as deputy mayor for five years. She was the coordinator on the Village Response for the ASDRP beach project and  oversaw the repair of the Sound-side groins at both the eastern and western ends and the National Grid sand placement in the fall of last year.

“We’ve been doing a lot and it’s been very rewarding serving the community,” Pierce said in a phone interview. “This is a great little community, and it’s great to get as many projects done as we can for the future of our village.”

Jablonski, a 16-year Asharoken resident, is a director in the information technology department of Northwell Health. He managed the widening of the shoulder on Asharoken Avenue across from the seawall, the repair of a retaining wall northwest of that area and has kept the board apprised of deer, tick and hunting information during his tenure. In the past two years residents have been divided on how to handle the overpopulation of deer in the area, and the resolution of allowing bow hunting for deer.

During the last five years, the pair said the Asharoken administration has concentrated on four main areas: taxes, infrastructure, grant funding and intermunicipal cooperation/planning.

In each of the last five years the village has remained below the New York State-mandated 2 percent tax levy increase cap. The recently adopted 2017-2018 budget has a 0 percent increase for the second year in a row. The five-year average tax change is the lowest it has been since 2002, at 1.4 percent. In addition, the New York State comptroller has conducted financial stress tests for local governments in the last four years, and Asharoken received the best evaluation possible for all three tests.

Another project that the pair was proud to have played a role in accomplishing was the construction of the new village hall, which was achieved entirely through resident donations. The current administration has also worked on repaving and repairing streets, repairing parts of the seawall and other parts of the beach. The village has also added four part-time police officers and replaced aging police cars to improve security in the area.

According to Jablonski and Pierce, approximately $1,100,00 in federal, state and local support has been secured by the administration in the last five years, which helped substantially defray the costs of many infrastructure projects.

The incumbents also said the village negotiated a five-year police contract that freezes the pay scale for new officers for five years and requires new officers to contribute 15 percent of their health insurance costs, instituted single stream recycling which has reduced sanitation costs for the village by approximately $2,500 annually, and created a multi-agency plan to effectively deal with storms like Hurricane Sandy, which caused major damage to the village five years ago.

Pierce and Jablonksi said in a joint statement they’ve enjoyed the collaborative efforts that make Asharoken so successful.

“It has been very rewarding working with the wonderful team we have-our fellow trustees and the mayor, the village employees and the many volunteers and residents who give so much to our beautiful village,” they said. “While much has been accomplished in the past five years, there are still important challenges and issues ahead.  We’ll continue to work with the help of the community for the best solutions for all of Asharoken.”

Photo by Wendy Mercier

The aim of allowing deer hunting to control the population in Asharoken and Eaton’s Neck has not exactly hit the target for many Huntington residents.

Members of the public expressed their continuing concerns over the policy enacted last year, which allowed bow hunting of deer in Eaton’s Neck during hunting season, during the March 21 town board meeting, and town officials assured them they understand many are not satisfied with the current law.

“I know there has to be a better solution because I think the solution that’s in place now is causing a hardship for the taxpayers and the people that live here,” Cindy Gabel, an Eaton’s Neck resident, said.

Gabel said she and friends have witnessed hunters assembling tree stands at night, a method to hunt deer, and she fears hunters are out when there is almost no visibility.

“It’s really dark out there at night and they’re hunting out there at night — I am sure of it,” she said. “I think one of the troubles you have is there really isn’t anyone besides the residents — I am trying to do it myself — going out at night and seeing if illegal hunting is happening. There’s not someone patrolling the streets and the police that are patrolling can’t really do anything about it anyway. There’s an awful big burden on us, the residents, about the deer hunting and it’s not really solving the problem.”

Gabel said whenever she calls the police about possible illegal hunting they instruct her to call the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and those officers are allowed to deal with any illegal hunters. But Gabel said it usually takes the DEC officers more than a half hour to get to the scene, leaving the chance of catching hunters slim.

Gabel was not alone in her fear night hunting could lead to dangerous situations.

“My fear too is that after 60 years on Locust Lane a stray arrow may mistake me or you for its quiver, so I ask you to deliver us from men in tree stands, from those deer slayers in tree stands,” Charlotte Koons, an Eaton’s Neck resident, said at the meeting.

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) assured the residents the town is listening.

“We’re looking at many, many different things because we are all concerned with the hunting,” Petrone said at the meeting. “We are looking at this very seriously because we know there’s a problem and we know that there are other problems as a result of this happening. So we share your concern, and the hunting situation that exists does not seem to solve the problem.”

The main problem the bow hunting for deer was intended to solve was the overpopulation in areas like Asharoken and Eaton’s Neck. Residents attended multiple town hall meetings last year citing their fear of deer causing car accidents and spreading Lyme disease as tick carriers.

But some community members feel this solution was not the right way to go.

“This is going to be the worst tick season we’ve had … the deer yes they carry ticks — so do we and so do white mice,” Gabel said. “We could kill all the deer in Eatons Neck, we’re still going to have the problem of the ticks and the Lyme disease so what do we do then? If someone gets killed in the process what have we all accomplished here?”

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said she and Asharoken officials intend to work together to try and find a new solution.

“Mayor [Greg] Letica is committed to working with us and the town attorney to see where we could have some common ground and also bring a proposal for you [Petrone] to review and consider for an amendment that would care for some of the issues and safety concerns,” she said.

At a March village board meeting Letica confirmed he spoke with Edwards about a possible change to the law.

“I had a phone conversation with Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards about the status of the draft law to amend the existing town deer ordinance,” he said at the meeting, “Councilwoman Edwards informed me that once a draft is complete she will share it with the village.”

Asharoken Village beach. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Earlier this month, Asharoken officials voted to bring an end to the multiyear-long dune restoration project with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The village had been working with the Army Corps to create a proposal to replenish the community’s eroding beaches, but part of the plan included creating public access points at certain private properties, which many residents rejected.

Mayor Greg Letica wrote in a letter to residents that the decision to no longer go forward with the plan was a result of surveying residents and opinions from public hearings.

“I was not surprised by the outcome because this is what the residents wanted,” Letica said in a phone interview. “It was a combination of the public access points, the liability and the cost.”

According to Letica, residents would have been liable for any injuries or mishaps that happened when the public was on the shoreline of the property — if new public access points had been created.

The village would have been expected to pay 10.5 percent of the $21.5 million cost for the initial placement of sand, and then 15 percent of the future sand placement costs, which were left undefined.

Back in December, village officials looked over the results of a public survey where it was revealed 85 percent of the 427 surveyors were against moving forward with the plan. Ninety percent of the homeowners that own Long Island Sound beach property that responded were opposed. If the remaining homes on the Sound property all responded with approval of going ahead, opposition would still be at 73 percent. Half of the beach lot owners in Asharoken responded.

“The responding property owners sent a comprehensive, resounding, unambiguous and nearly unanimous message to the board of trustees — we do not want to do the ASDRP,” Letica said in the letter. “You were heard loud and clear.”

Village trustees said repeatedly during previous board meetings they wouldn’t approve a plan without resident approval, and Letica said he was grateful for resident participation throughout the process.

“I would like to sincerely compliment the residents of Asharoken for their participation in the process to help guide the board of trustees in their decision on the ASDRP,” he said. “You were engaged every step of the way, provided very helpful insight into aspects of the plan that otherwise may have gone unnoticed, communicated passionately to the board about how you felt, responded to the survey in very high numbers and provided polite, concise and clear comments at the public hearing. Everyone who took time to be involved in this historic decision should be proud of their efforts.”

The village originally entered an agreement with the Army Corps in 2001 to perform a Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study, but it did not obligate the village to move forward with any of the proposals suggested. The resolution was approved with a 4-0 vote, with Trustee Laura Burke being absent.

In previous meetings, some residents expressed the need for a plan to protect the beaches.

“We need to protect the beaches,” Asharoken resident Christine Peterson said in a previous interview. “I understand the residents that don’t want to give access to their private property, but I think this is something we need to do. It’s not like we’re opening up a new beach and expect many new visitors to come and use it.”

Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica, center, and Trustees Laura Burke and Mel Ettinger are all seeking a third term in Village Hall. Photo from Laura Burke

Asharoken is not shaking up its leadership in the coming year, as per the results of Tuesday’s village election.

Mayor Greg Letica and Trustees Mel Ettinger and Laura Burke were all re-elected. Letica recieved 167 votes, Ettinger got 150 and Burke had 143.

Ettinger said he is excited to begin another term for Asharoken.

“I’m thrilled to have been re-elected together with Greg and Laura,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday. “The three of us are looking forward to working with the other two trustees for another two years, and continuing to work on some of the issues facing our village and whatever new issues arise.”

Letica echoed his sentiments.

“I am very happy to be re-elected and I look forward to continuing to serve the residents,” he said. “And I also want to thank them for their support.”

Burke said she is excited to continue to help the village.

“I would like to say that I am pleased and honored to serve alongside the other elected officials of Asharoken, in particular Mayor Letica who brings a tremendous amount of honesty and integrity to our village government,” she said in an email. “I will continue to strive to make decisions in the best interests of our residents and village.

Coastal geologist Aram Terchunian. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The considerations for the Asharoken beach and dune restorations continue.

Coastal geologist Aram Terchunian from First Coastal Corp. consultants delivered a presentation to the board of trustees on Feb. 3, and trustees said they still agreed to go forward with an $84.5 million plan that would transform Asharoken’s beaches and dunes.

Several months ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented the board with five different alternatives to combat the flooding and erosion problems the village has encountered, specifically those that arose after Hurricane Sandy.

Trustees said they preferred the plan known as alternative (1), which uses sand to fill the coastline along Asharoken Beach. The plan includes filling the beach with a particular type of offshore grain that is compatible with the native beach sand. There will also be a dune made on the west end of the beach.

The initial volume of beach fill is 600,000 cubic yards with 80,000 cubic yards of nourishment every three years, Terchunian said. The total estimated cost for construction alone of this plan is just more than $21 million, Terchunian said.

He said that the construction cost is shared roughly 70 percent by the federal government, 20 percent by the state and 10 percent by local government. But the maintenance-costs share changes to only 50 percent federal, 35 percent state and 15 percent local.

The coastal geologist also said the sand alternative plan is the least expensive to construct, but the most expensive to maintain over time due to the amount of annual sand needed.

He said the Army Corps “did their homework” with the proposals they presented to the board, and he particularly praised the plan for alternative (1) because of the type of offshore sand the Corps planned to use.

Asharoken Trustee Mel Ettinger. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Asharoken Trustee Mel Ettinger. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“Looking at these sediments, the Corps made an astute observation,” Terchunian said. “Designing the project with a slightly heavier grain size than exists on beach, from offshore, is an excellent match [to the sand type currently on the beach].”

He said the grain size is “critically important” to the success and endurance of this plan.

In a phone interview on Friday, Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica said the board has concerns with the groin components in the other alternatives presented by the Army Corps.

“We are also concerned about the fact that there is not guaranteed long-term replenishment money which could leave the groins exposed, become a possible eyesore and cause more erosion downstream,” he said.

The main concern of residents and the trustees alike throughout this entire process has been the issue of public access. It is required by the federal government for public access points to be made if government funds are used to help finance the project. Currently, the public is only afforded access of a private beach property below the waterline.

However, if this proposal goes through, the public would have access above the mean high waterline to private properties on the Long Island Sound side.

Letica asked Terchunian if there is anyway Asharoken could get around the additional required public access points. Terchunian said that the Army Corps is not allowed to have any flexibility with the projects they propose, and the U.S. Congress said, “If they spend the money in this location, these are the requirements.”

Local politicians such as Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) and Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) have written to the Army Corps headquarters asking for the public access points on private property to be reconsidered.

Terchunian has years of experience working with the Army Corps, most notably with the Village of Westhampton Beach for dune restoration.

The need for this project was first introduced by Letica in 2012, in a letter to federal legislators urging them to find funding to protect Asharoken Avenue, which he had called “exposed,” after Sandy and multiple nor’easters continued to reduce the size of the dunes protecting the shore.

The village had until yesterday, Feb. 10, to respond initially to the Army Corps. Letica said the board intends to keep the community completely in the loop as it comes closer to making a decision on whether or not they go forward with a plan.

“We want the board to not make these decisions unilaterally,” he said, adding that the trustees will look into forums like public hearings or public surveys to gauge residents’ desires.

Above, Richard Boziwick smiles with his wife. Photo from Boziwick

One Northport man has helped bring the spark back into the village’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

Richard Boziwick, owner of R. P. Luce & Company Inc. on Scudder Avenue in Northport, helped Northport Harbor ring in the new year by organizing a fireworks show. He said the Centerport Yacht Club used to have an annual fireworks display that was suspended about seven years ago. He used to look forward to watching them from the Northport Yacht Club every year and wanted to bring that celebration back for everyone in Northport to experience.

“It was great to bring this back for the village,” Boziwick said in a phone interview. “It’s neat to have something on the off-season and I think it’s something we needed.”

Boziwick has lived in the village since 1983 and is known to be deeply active within the community. He first got involved with the community’s coveted annual Cow Harbor race in 1985 as a runner, became a volunteer soon after, and was eventually appointed director for the race. He has also spent years on the Northport Planning Board and now serves as chairman.

As director of the Cow Harbor race and chairman of the planning board, Boziwick said he has been able to develop relationships with countless people throughout the village.

“I am in positions that have high visibility within multiple municipalities, so I meet a lot of different people,” he said.

He has been a member of the Northport Yacht Club for the past 20 years and is the rear commodore there, so his reach expands to the nautical community. A rear commodore assists the commodore in his or her duties to maintain the yacht club.

Through these relationships, Boziwick was able to reach out and hear not only that other residents wanted the fireworks back, but that they were willing to contribute to the costs.

The event was almost entirely funded by Northport businesses and organizations. The three major contributors were Northport Yacht Club, Centerport Yacht Club and the Great Cow Harbor 10k. Other smaller community sponsors included Northport Copy, Tim’s Shipwreck Diner, the Northport Historical Society and Jones Drug Store.

Boziwick said this first year of fireworks was quite a success, with more than 500 people coming to view the fireworks in Northport while sipping on hot chocolate and eating cookies supplied by Tim’s Shipwreck Diner.

He said that plans have already been solidified for next year’s fireworks, which he hopes will expand the show in terms of the types of pyrotechnics.

“I just love fireworks and I think it’s unique to have them on New Year’s, since so many towns and villages usually have them on the Fourth of July,” he said. “It’s been great to bring this back to the village because, in the end, it’s got to be something for the village.”

He also said he feels this is a chance for the Cow Harbor race to give back to the community and say thanks for allowing them to use the village every year to host this race.

“This event is meant for the people of Northport and their friends,” he said.

Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland, Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, John Ross, Senator Carl Marcellino, Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica, Congressman Steve Israel and Asharoken Deputy Mayor Pamela Pierce cut the ribbon at the new Asharoken Village Hall. Photo by Steve Silverman

The new Asharoken Village Hall officially opened its doors with a dedication ceremony on Nov. 24, ending a 10-year journey of replacing a battered building at the center of the village.

“So many people came to join in on the festivities,” Asharoken Trustee and Police Commissioner Mel Ettinger said, referring to the more than 100 residents who gathered with Mayor Greg Letica, the board of trustees, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and New York State Senator Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset). “It made it a fantastic event and a phenomenal success in every way possible.”

The new village hall opened for business last month and is a large expansion from the previous building — the ground floor alone is about 3,000 square feet. There is a larger, improved space for the police station, and the whole thing was built to be more environmentally friendly and energy efficient, with LED lighting and spray-foam insulation.

According to a statement, Letica said at the dedication that the process to get to the finish line has been long, and that Ettinger was a key player from the start.

“The project to build a new village hall was actually started almost 10 years ago … initially as an expansion to our old village hall,” Letica said. But funding either an expansion or a construction of a new building was always a major concern.

Ettinger said he started organizing the renovation project when he first became police commissioner, and was told he could go ahead with it as long as it didn’t increase taxes. That was when Ettinger decided to raise the money through donations.

Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica and Trustee and Police Commissioner Mel Ettinger at the front entrance of the new village hall. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica and Trustee and Police Commissioner Mel Ettinger at the front entrance of the new village hall. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“Within the first 10 days of announcing that, I received a check for $10,000 from a resident,” Ettinger said. “Before you knew it, people were sending in checks and pledges left and right. And within the next year and half, we already had $175,000.”

But when Hurricane Sandy hit three years ago, irreparably damaging the structure, the village ditched all plans of renovating it. Letica said the storm forced everyone in village hall to abandon the building and start an “urgent project” to erect a new one.

Joan Ettinger, Mel’s wife, formed the Asharoken Fundraising Committee, which according to Letica, ended up raising $360,000 from more than 200 residents and “has enabled the village to fund the cost of this beautiful building.”

Letica said funding was also made possible with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which reimburses municipalities for repair work following natural disasters.

“Congressman Israel was extremely helpful with … processing our claim with FEMA and I am certain that if not for his personal support and efforts we would have not be able to receive the grant of $538,855,” Letica said.

He also said Marcellino helped the village obtain an additional $50,000 grant.

The total project cost about $950,000.

The new village trustee meeting room on the building’s first floor will soon have a donor board, where the names of people who have donated will be showcased.

A view of the front entrance of the new Asharoken Village Hall located on Asharoken Avenue. The building, which opened less than a month ago, has more space for police and village business. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Asharoken’s new Village Hall has got it all, according to Mayor Greg Letica.

Letica said the new structure is nearly three times larger than the old building — the ground floor is approximately 3,000 square feet. Most of that is made up of the village clerk’s office, an office for Letica, a small conference room, a kitchen and the village trustees’ meeting room.

The rest of the first floor and the second floor are spaces for the police department, including an office, an interview room, a locker room and storage.

Letica said the police department had about 120 square feet inside the old Village Hall, so its wish list was a bit bigger for the new building.

“There was no interview room, no office; there was no nothing,” Letica said.

Both the police department and the village clerk’s office moved into the new building about a month ago.

According to the mayor, this new Village Hall would not be possible if it weren’t for the involvement of village residents. The budget for the entire building was roughly $950,000 and residents opened their wallets to help.

“What’s great about this project is how we funded it,” he said. “To date, we have approximately $360,000 worth of resident donations.”

Residents have been donating money for nine years, ever since the idea to renovate the old village hall was brought up by Trustee Mel Ettinger. In October alone, Letica said, they received $13,000 in resident donations.

“We have roughly 300 families in the village and about 200 donated,” Ettinger said. “It’s incredible. And some of them gave tens of thousands and some gave $50. It was a conglomeration and obviously the overwhelming majority of people wanted to donate.”

Asharoken was also able to capitalize on money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and multiple grants to help fund the construction of the new building, because the old one took a beating during Hurricane Sandy. Letica said they received $530,000 from FEMA and about $80,000 in grants.

“After Sandy, it became more apparent that we had to do something,” Letica said. “And maintaining the old building made no sense anymore.”

The new village trustee meeting room will soon have a donor board, where the  names of people who have donated will be showcased on the wall.

“This is a really neat accomplishment by the village residents,” Letica said. “It’s something I think very few communities on Long Island could rally to do. I think it says a lot about Asharoken as a community.”

The new Village Hall is also much more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than the old establishment.

The building uses spray foam insulation, an alternative to traditional insulation, and LED lighting, which produces more light per watt than incandescent light bulbs. Both of those products lower utility bills and save on energy costs.

“We expect this building to be very economical energy-wise,” Letica said.

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