Tags Posts tagged with "Congressman Lee Zeldin"

Congressman Lee Zeldin

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Congressman Lee Zeldin, left, meets with constituents at the Setauket Fire Department on Main Street. Photo from Lee Zeldin’s office

Residents of New York’s 1st Congressional District took time out of their busy schedules Aug. 20 to sit down with their congressman to discuss what’s on their minds.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) held mobile office hours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Setauket Fire Department on Main Street Tuesday. Constituents were invited to sit down, either one-on-one or in groups, with Zeldin or one of his staff members.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, left, meets with constituents at the Setauket Fire Department on Main Street. Photo from Lee Zeldin’s office

While many declined to discuss their specific questions, other residents waiting to speak to Zeldin said they were prepared to bring up issues such as background checks when buying guns, how to curb easy accessibility to assault-style rifles, Medicare, providing for veterans, immigration, health care for preexisting conditions and mandated vaccinations. One attendee wanted to know whether or not Zeldin is in favor of slashing the payroll tax and, if so, what other methods would he suggest to fund Medicare and Social Security.

Among the 71 who attended, several parents had their children in tow to provide them an example of civic engagement.

Sarah, 13, daughter of former Setauket congressional candidate Dave Calone, said this was the first chance she had to speak to an elected official about an issue.

“I wanted to talk with him about gun control,” she said while waiting to get an opportunity to speak with Zeldin. “I wanted to ask him about what measures the government is taking to ensure students are safe in school and other places as well.”

Kathleen Thornton, of Stony Brook, was with her son Jack.

“I thought it was good for him to get a sense of how government works,” the mother said.

The Stony Brook resident wanted to talk to Zeldin about the Excelsior Scholarship Program in New York and the income cutoff. She said the Excelsior funds also were not released until the initial payments to State University of New York schools were due, adding she only discovered issues with the scholarship program while helping her niece with her financial aid forms. While waiting to meet with the congressman, she said she hoped that he would know the right people to connect with to address her issues with the program.

Barbara Kantz, of East Setauket, who waited around two hours to meet with Zeldin, said she came to him with advocacy issues related to the environment and was satisfied with the strategies Zeldin offered, including those she can use as a citizen. She said to him that she knows he is an environmentalist, and she wanted to know how, as a congressman, he translates that to action programs “when we’re living in a time when science is somewhat dismissed, and we have an EPA that actually doesn’t believe in some of the notions of what an EPA should do.”

Three Village resident George Henik, before his meeting with Zeldin, said he would like to get a time frame from him about specific indictments.

“Why is [former FBI Director James] Comey still walking around and writing books and not in prison?” he asked.

Henik said he believes many have used the Congress as their weapon of choice and that some politicians, such as U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, both Democrats, are out of control.

His wife Susan Henik said she also had questions for the congressman including concerns about voter fraud, especially on the federal level.

The couple were optimistic about meeting with the congressman and felt they were addressing issues that people from both parties are concerned about, such as justice and voter fraud.

“These two questions that we have, or topics of discussions that we brought up, no one would want their election being tampered with, no one wants a coup of the president,” Susan Henik said.

According to a press release from Zeldin’s office, those interested in participating in a future meeting, including after work or during the weekend, can call 631-289-1097.

Caged migrant children at U.S. Mexico border

By Donna Deedy

Local U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D–Glen Cove), after visiting detention centers along the southern United States border July 13 with 15 other House Democrats, has returned to his Huntington office alarmed. The situation, he said, is awful.  

U.S. Immigration Detention Center. photo from Tom Suozzi’s Office

“We need to make the humanitarian crisis at the border priority number one,” Suozzi said. “The system is broken.”

The group toured and inspected facilities that are currently holding Central American migrants seeking asylum and met with several migrant families to hear, first-hand, their experiences and what can be done to help.

“America is better than this,” he said. “I have worked on this issue since before I was elected mayor of Glen Cove in 1993 and I will continue to fight for solutions consistent with our American values.” 

During the visit, Suozzi learned that only 20 to 30 migrants seeking asylum are processed each day. This provides an incentive for people to cross in between ports of entry, he said, and once apprehended, they then turn themselves in to seek asylum. In turn, this leads to their detention.

“My recent trip to the border makes it clear that this issue is incredibly complicated and has been for decades. The policies and rhetoric from this administration have exacerbated the problem, permeating a culture of fear that forces many immigrants further into the shadows.” 

 The congressman is calling for action, insisting that all delegates work together to:

•Address the current humanitarian crisis at the border.

•Secure borders in a smart and effective way.

•Create stability in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that account for almost 90 percent of current immigrants.

•Protect the legal status of Dreamers and people with temporary protective status and their families with renewable temporary protection and a path to citizenship.

The tour coincided with rallies held in Huntington village and across the country and the world in protest of the policies and inhumane practices at U.S. border with Mexico. 

Suozzi was a guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on July 16, where he said that “the president has, once again, shifted the conversation away from important policy issues toward a racial divide in our country.”

The Rev. Duncan Burns, of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Huntington, attended the Huntington rally “Lights for Liberty” and spoke to the crowd that gathered July 12. Suozzi’s trip to the border, the reverend said, has sparked greater concern.

“We encourage people to raise their voices and to call their members of Congress to urge them to work together to find solutions,” he said. “The Episcopal Church is completely backing both parties to find a solution to this humanitarian crisis.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) did not respond to phone and email requests for comment on his position on the issue.

By Heidi Sutton

The Long Island State Veterans Home (LISVH) in Stony Brook honored our fallen heroes with a Memorial Day ceremony on May 24.

The special event featured speeches from Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley); Colonel James McDonough Jr., director of the New York State Division of Veterans Services; County Executive Steve Bellone (D); and was attended by many veterans living at the LISVH, elected officials including Assemblyman Steve Engelbright (D-Setauket) and Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) and many veteran service organization members. 

Rabbi Joseph Topek gave the invocation, Rev. Gregory Leonard gave the benediction, Father Thomas Tuite gave a Veterans Prayer and Lee Ann Brill, Miss NY Senior America 2017, sang lovely renditions of “Star Spangled Banner,” “Wind Beneath My Wings, “Amazing Grace and “God Bless America.”

The afternoon commenced with a wreath laying ceremony conducted by James Carbone, World War II veteran and LISVH member, at the Walk of Heroes on the grounds; a color guard, firing detail and taps memorial by Marine Corps League East End Detachment 642, and a “Tolling of the Bells” memorial service led by LTC Marion McEntee, deputy director of nursing at the LISVH.

Rabbi Topek said it best in his opening prayer. “Today we remember those who have laid down their lives in service of our country, who in the words of President Lincoln have laid the most costly sacrifice upon the altar of freedom … May we the citizens of the United States remain mindful of those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom in the many conflicts of the past — Veterans of World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, Persian Gulf War … May their memories always be a blessing to our nation today and every day.”

Photos courtesy of Doreen Guma and Congressman Zeldin’s office

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The recently refurbished and cleaned up Vietnam War memorial at St. James LIRR train station. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation to aid the Navy’s Agent Orange victims in a bill that also expands U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs home loan opportunities for veterans.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) introduced the Flexible VA Loan Guarantee Act  as part of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 (H.R. 299). He’s urging the Senate for support. 

“This is the second time that the House has taken action to pass this legislation,” said Zeldin in a statement. “It is incredibly important for the Senate to do their part to help make this actually become law. I’m looking forward to that bill signing, and it is decades overdue.”

Suffolk County, according to Zeldin, is home to New York State’s largest veteran population. 

He expects the Flexible VA Loan Guarantee Act, if adopted, to eliminate the loan limit or “maximum guarantee amount” of a loan that the VA can guarantee for a veteran, providing the VA with the flexibility to determine the appropriate limit for individual veteran loans and expand access to home ownership in areas like Long Island where real estate values are higher.

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act expands treatment coverage for those affected by Agent Orange from not only those who served on the ground, as currently stands, but to those service members who were affected while serving at sea.

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Northport VA Medical Center. File photo

The Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s homeless shelter closed their doors for repairs 18 months ago and never reopened.

Congressional leaders from all four Long Island districts want to know why and are demanding that the 50-bed facility, which they say is ready for inhabitants, welcome homeless veterans once again. 

“The closure of Northport’s on-site homeless shelter has forced veterans to find accommodations far from the medical services they need — the services that oftentimes help mitigate the root causes of homelessness,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) in a prepared joint statement.

The veterans who stayed at the VA’s shelter suffered mainly from traumatic brain injury, post- traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, according to Frank Amalfitano, president and CEO of Beacon House, the non-profit entity that managed the facility before it closed.

“It would be a tragedy if the place didn’t reopen, because so many people need the convenience of the services offered in one location,” he said. 

Northport’s  shelter closed in January 2018 for renovations to the heating system. Its closure was prolonged because the contractor hired by VA failed to update the building in accordance with current fire codes, according to information provided by Long Island’s congressional leaders. 

“As it has been presented to us, Building 11 has now been brought up to code and is ready to be inhabited,”  they said in a press release. “However, due to VA’s decision to terminate the on-site contract with Building 11’s vendor, with neither a communicated reason nor a viable replacement, we now find ourselves sixteen months later with a renovated building and no vendor in place to provide this vital service to our community’s veterans.”

Levi Spellman, press officer for the Northport VA Medical Center, said the contracting requirements are changing for the shelter, so that it can potentially be awarded to a for-profit, veteran-owned business. “We are actively expediting this process and anticipate resuming on-site services before the end of the year,” he said. Spellman also stated that Beacon has done a great job for the VA. “Although housing moved off-site, the same vendor is managing those shelters and the care we provide our veterans has not changed.”

Amalfitano said his contract for the Northport shelter was supposed to last until 2020. He’s been encouraged to reapply, but his organization may no longer qualify.

Beacon House manages 42 residential programs in Nassau and Suffolk counties for veterans. The mission of the 25-year-old, non-profit, which is funded by United Way, is to “help veterans regain their self-worth and empower them with the tools necessary to rejoin their communities as independent and productive citizens.”

Birds chirping, kids playing, barbecues firing up are just the typical sounds of summer in suburbia. 

Though with summer season close by, many residents living along the North Shore will once again have to contend with increased helicopter traffic and noise due to a known helicopter route that flies directly over the heads of many residential communities.

Despite the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 signed into law by President Donald Trump six months ago, which would require the Federal Aviation Administration to reassess the North Shore Helicopter Route, many residents and elected officials feel that the FAA hasn’t taken enough action on the issue and argue that the public workshops held in November 2018 on Long Island were inadequate. 

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) sent a letter to the acting regional director of the FAA, Maria Stanco, on May 10 stating the agency should take immediate action to address the aircraft noise on the North Fork. This is Zeldin’s second letter to the FAA calling for them to comply with the legislation’s requirement to hold real public hearings in the communities impacted by the North Shore route. 

“The ‘workshops’ held on Long Island last year did not meet the clear mandates of the law and insulted my constituents,” Zeldin stated in the letter. “The use of the questionable, insufficient format not only silenced the voices of the public but was perceived as a clear attempt by the FAA to diminish the serious impact of the NSR and the negative quality of life impacts that resulted to the North Fork.” 

In preparation of the workshops held in November, the FAA accepted public comments from residents, where 337 people responded. 

John Cullen of Riverhead left a comment in February asking what the FAA thinks of the 336 comments and will there ever be a public hearing held by them.  

“Not a single aircraft lands on the North Shore, yet the commercial helicopters need to fly over 18 miles above homes which includes northeast Queens and northwest Nassau County,” he said.

Tim Sinclair said the current practice of helicopter traffic across the Southold area is terrible. 

“An all-water route that avoids crossing Southold and the bay that separates the North and South Forks is needed,” he said in a comment online. “Helicopter traffic is constant and especially noted on Fridays en route to the South Shore and then again on Sunday leaving the South Shore headed north. In between there is constant traffic and low-flying helicopters as well as private jets.”

“The use of the questionable, insufficient format not only silenced the voices of the public but was perceived as a clear attempt by the FAA to diminish the serious impact of the NSR and the negative quality of life impacts that resulted to the North Fork.”

— Lee Zeldin

Sinclair has complained many times about the helicopters but said the FAA requires tail number identification “which is nearly impossible for most civilians to observe and record,” he said in a comment. “Moreover, aircraft comes through at low altitudes below 500 feet creating a terrible noise upsetting people, animal and wildlife in the area. This disregard for quality of life and the peaceful enjoyment of the residents of Southold is a crime. An alternate all-water route is needed for both peace and quiet as well as public safety.” 

The North Shore Helicopter Route was created in 2012 and originally had a two-year duration set to end in August 2014. It was again extended for another two years, and in the summer of 2016,  it was extended for four years. Zeldin said the FAA used questionable “emergency authority” to extend the timeline of the route. The latest extension is set to expire on August 6, 2020. 

Zeldin’s office said the congressman has requested other U.S. representatives assist in addressing the issue. He has maintained the FAA needs to consider an all-water route over the Atlantic Ocean, and has not yet received a response from the federal agency.

Jim Peters, FAA spokesperson, said in a statement that they will review Zeldin’s letter, which they received on May 14, and then respond to him directly. 

Earlier this month, the FAA extended the use of alternative noise relief routes that shifted traffic away from neighborhoods in northeast Queens. Zeldin said this is great news for suffering residents in those areas but a slap in the face to the North Fork, which has sought similar relief for years. 

“Actions by your agency to provide relief to select communities impacted by the deeply flawed North Shore Route while ignoring the pleas of others is unfair and inequitable,” the congressman said in his letter. “The residents of the North Fork do not live near any helipads or airports and receive only the negative impact of noise and none of the economic benefits associated with the air traffic that greatly increases over their homes during the summer high season. If the FAA is willing and able to provide noise relief to New York City communities suffering from the NSR through regulatory action, it must swiftly and immediately take the same action for North Fork residents.”

Similarly, on Long Island, there are plans for a new luxury helicopter shuttle to the Hamptons where residents on the East End have also been trying to reduce helicopter noise in the area. 

Wheels Up, a membership-based private aviation company, announced earlier this month that the summer shuttles will run from mid-June through August.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. Flie photo by Alex Petroski

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) spoke on the House floor April 30, ahead of a unanimous House passage of his legislation to honor former Congressman Bill Carney. The bill, H.R. 828, designates the United States Postal Service facility located at 25 Route 111 in Smithtown, New York, as the Congressman Bill Carney Post Office.

 “Congressman Carney was an incredible man who fought tirelessly for his constituents everyday. Even before his life in politics, his commitment to serving his country and community never wavered,” Zeldin said.

William Carney, formerly of Hauppauge, died May 22, 2017, at the age of 74, after a four-year battle with prostate cancer. He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corp from 1961 to 1964 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He also served as a Suffolk County legislator in 1976 for a single term, before his election as U.S. congressman for New York’s 1st Congressional District, where Zeldin now serves. The district is comprised of Smithtown, Brookhaven and the East End. 

Carney served eight years in Congress and was a member of the Conservative Party. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, according to obituaries after his death, Carney sponsored a bill to reduce strategic arms and freeze nuclear weapons, which was backed by then President Ronald Reagan. Carney was also known for supporting the $4.5 billion Shoreham nuclear project. Carney left office in January 1987.

“Congressman Carney will be remembered for his strength, integrity and commitment to his district and nation, and there is no place he loved more than Long Island. Now, every time someone enters the Congressman Bill Carney Post Office, his legacy will be remembered forever,” Zeldin said. 

“Bill was a beloved husband, father and grandfather. For our community, for New York’s 1st Congressional District, for our nation and for the ideals in which he believed, he was a fighter until the very end,” the Carney family said in a prepared statement. “Bill loved the 1st Congressional District and it was his highest honor serving its people. Smithtown was our family’s home for decades, and it is particularly meaningful that this Post Office continues to serve the people about whom he cared so deeply. Thank you to Congressman Zeldin for helping preserve his memory in a place that was always very special to him. We know that he is smiling at being remembered back home.”

The bill is expected to pass the Senate.

From left, Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport), Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Ken Kashansky, Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Fred S. Sganga, Tom DiNapoli (D) and Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) look on as U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and resident of Unit 3C Joe Rohan cuts the ribbon. Photo by Doreen Guma
Ribbon cutting ceremony officially opens first renovated residential unit

The Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook recently celebrated a milestone in Operation Rejuvenation, a project that will help renovate the interior of the existing facility, with the opening of its first renovated residential unit, 3C. The event was celebrated with a ribbon cutting on Aug. 25.

The project was made possible by a $12.5 million VA Construction Grant, one of the oldest partnerships between the federal government and the states. Each year, through the support of Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the federal government allocates approximately $85 million to fund the State Veterans Home Construction Grant Program. Through this initiative, individual states compete for funding that must be used to either construct or renovate designated state veterans facilities that provide skilled nursing or domiciliary care.

The federal government appropriates 65 percent of the construction costs provided that each state makes a commitment of 35 percent in state matching funds, for which New York State Senator John Flanagan has been instrumental in helping the LISVH secure.

The newly renovated nursing units include a modernized and open dining space, an accessible nourishment station, a complete nursing station redesign and fully renovated living spaces for residents. This project included the installation of energy-efficient LED lighting, LED televisions and new personal furnishings that our nation’s heroes will be proud to call home.

“The Long Island State Veterans Home has always made a commitment to be the premiere provider for long-term care services to our nation’s heroes,” said Fred S. Sganga, executive director of the Long Island State Veterans Home. “Operation Rejuvenation will assure that our frail, elderly veterans are living in the finest facility in the country. We are really excited about this project because it represents the recommitment of Stony Brook University to Long Island’s veterans and their families.”

“Our veterans were willing to put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect our freedom and way of life,” said Zeldin. “We owe it to them to make sure the facilities that care for our veterans are in the best condition possible to meet their needs. The work being done at the Long Island State Veterans Home will help accomplish that goal, and I commend the leadership and staff for undertaking this project.”

“Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to those who have protected our way of life and cherished freedoms,” said Flanagan. “One way we can say ‘thank you’ to them is by making sure these brave men and women have a comfortable living environment. The Long Island State Veterans Home has been a great resource for our veterans and their families and this project will help ensure that it continues to be a place that our heroes are proud to call home,” he said.