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County Executive Steve Bellone

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, right, and Jim Malatras, president of SUNY Empire State College. Photo from Suffolk County

Right before the official opening of its new campus in Selden, State University of New York Empire State College has partnered with Suffolk County to offer the beauty of nature to students and surrounding residents.

On Oct. 29, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Jim Malatras, president of SUNY Empire State College, signed an educational partnership. The agreement will connect the county’s existing trail network to the college’s new 6.6-acre Long Island campus at 407 College Road, Selden, which is scheduled to open Nov. 13.

The trail network connection will be used for academic programming which will be designed by SUNY Empire Assistant Professor Matt Schmidt. It will be open for public use, and events for students and community members will focus on exploration of the surrounding habitat.

“This partnership will benefit our students by leveraging the county’s sprawling trail network and turning it into a model program through SUNY Empire State College,” Bellone said.

Trails will be marked and rated for accessibility by The Nature Conservancy, and the paths will be maintained in part by volunteers from the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference.

Malatras thanked Bellone as well as the Nature Conservancy and the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference for their assistance in the project.

“SUNY Empire State College is happy to do its part to protect and maintain these natural areas for the benefit of its students, faculty and staff, as well as the broader Suffolk County community,” Malatras said.

According to a press release from Bellone’s office, a comprehensive connected countywide network of hiking and biking trails is currently in the works. The process will include analyzing hundreds of miles of bike lanes and signed bike routes and potential shared-use paths similar to the North Shore Rail Trail, which will run from Wading River to Mount Sinai. The master plan, expected by early 2020, will map the existing hiking and biking network, identify the gaps in that network and then develop a plan to prioritize and build out those gaps.

College and elected officials broke ground two years ago in Selden on the new campus, according to SUNY Empire’s website. There are currently two campuses in Suffolk County — Hauppauge and Riverhead. The new Selden campus is described as a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly learning facility. The facility will offer both in-room and online classes.

Steve Bellone discusses ideas about promoting the arts in St. James with Natalie Weinstein from the civic group Celebrate St. James during a recent visit to the Calderone Theater. Photo by David Luces

State and local officials gathered at the St. James General Store to commemorate the recent completion of the new pedestrian crossing that connects the store to Deepwells Farm and its parking. The project also included drainage and infrastructure repairs near the building as part of phase one of the Downtown Revitalization Project. 

The arts, experts state, is a sure-fire way to revitalize a community. Photo by David Luces

Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) noted that the repairs were completed just in time as the community nears peak holiday season, when residents frequent the Suffolk County-owned and operated shop. 

“As you know this is the oldest general store in operation in the United States,” he said at a press conference. “Not only does this [repaved road] make for safe crossing on Moriches Road, but the beautification allows for more people to stop and encourages people to shop locally.”

Douglas Dahlgard, Head of the Harbor mayor, said the general store is a destination in the community. 

“This is a destination, it has been one since 1857,” he said. “History is very important in this community, tourists have come from as far as South Africa [to visit the store]. [The store] reminds me of my roots.”

Wehrheim expects the rest of phase one initiative, which includes renovating sidewalks, crosswalks and concrete gutters spanning from Patrick’s Way to Jericho Turnpike, will be completed in the next two weeks.

Phase two of the revitalization plan is expected to be completed by the end of winter.  It includes adding a sewer line and pump station along the main stretch of Lake Avenue, new off-street municipal parking and major pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures. 

After the press conference, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) joined town officials in a Lake Avenue walking tour and visited the Calderone Theater, which will soon open as a cultural arts center in the future.     

Wehrheim said they have looked at a number of parcels that are primed for economic development. Ideas include purchasing the vacant Irish Viking Bar to create a pavilion for live entertainment in the center of town and additional parking. 

Steve Bellone (D) and fellow Democrats celebrate keeping the county executive position. Photo by David Luces

In the most profiled race of the year for Suffolk County Executive, Democrat Steve Bellone won handily over his challenger, County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) with 55 percent to Kennedy’s 43 percent. Libertarian candidate Greg Fischer gained just 1 percent of the overall vote.

John Kennedy Jr. (R) the night of Nov. 5. Photo by Kyle Barr

Bellone was greeted by enthusiastic cheers at IBEW.

“It turns out that the voters have decided that there is more work for us to do here,” he said. “This will be my third and final term as County Executive, I don’t know what the future holds but it entirely possible that this could be my final race for public office… If that is the case I must give one final thank you to the person who has been with me for every race that I have won.”

He also thanked his opponents John Kennedy and Greg Fischer.

“I look forward to working together to build a better future for Suffolk County.”

Kennedy blamed the incumbent’s near $2 million war chest for the loss, along with negative campaign ads he said targeted not only him, but his wife and children.

He promised he would continue to be a financial watchdog for the county, saying he thinks the county will entire a financial death spiral it may not be able to pull out of.

“The good news is, I get to keep doing the job I love, being comptroller,” he said. “There’s no lack of fraud waste and abuse in Suffolk County, which we demonstrated the past five years.”

After a heated campaign season, and while the vote seemed to be close as they were tallied, Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) defeated her Republican opponent Gary Pollakusky 54 to 41 percent. Libertarian candidate James Kevin, who was not available for comment, gained nearly 5 percent of the vote.

When brought up on stage, Schaffer called her “landslide Anker.”

The 5th time legislator said it was her strong base and work of her campaign that helped pull her through. She added there are numerous projects she hopes to work on in the coming years.

“We have so many projects in the works … We have the Rails to Trails, the park in Middle Island, continue working with the opioid advisory panel,” she said. “There is so much work to do.

I really want to focus on mental health/addiction treatment, tackle the financial issues with the county, be proactive with supporting local business and those mom and pop shops.”

Pollakusky remained gracious after his loss, saying, “I hope Sarah serves her constituents well for our legislative district.” He added he will continue to be active in the community by leading the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce and serving on the board of the Rocky Point Civic Association.

Susan Berland takes a photo with staff and supporters Nov. 5. Photo by Rita. J. Egan

In the Port Jefferson-Setauket area Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) won overwhelmingly against her Republican opponent John McCormack 63 to 37 percent.

Kara Hahn said she is looking forward to continuing working on several projects including protection of the environment, public safety and the opioid epidemic.

“Those numbers have to come down to zero,” she said. “We cannot accept more opioid deaths. The numbers have fallen a little bit, but we have to continue to work on that. We cannot be losing our children. It’s senseless. It’s preventable. We have to be sure we do what we can on that.”

McCormack was not available to comment.

Thomas Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) easily won over Democratic challenger David Bligh in the fight for the 4th district with nearly 60 percent of the vote. He thanked his wife and staff and said they would move on “stronger.”

While Bligh lost to Muratore for Suffolk County Legislator in the 4th district, he said he plans to stay in the political arena and to run again.

“Tom’s term limited after this year so there’s going to be an open seat in two years,” he said.

Bligh, an environmental engineer, said he has a long list of quality of life issues that he wants to address, including affordability and water quality issues.

Garcia announced Rob Trotta’s (R-Fort Salonga) 62 percent victory against Democrat Janet Singer, by mentioning Trotta’s propensity to stir the pot. Ever the firebrand, the Fort Salonga resident did not disappoint, getting to the mike and calling the Conservative party “corrupt,” adding “this is about honesty and integrity, and that party is clearly lacking.”

When asked to expand on that, Trotta said, “The entire Conservative party is corrupt, period.”

Singer said she was disappointed as she felt she would be a great legislator but enjoyed campaigning where she learned a lot.

She said before this election cycle she felt Rob Trotta didn’t pay attention to water quality issues. She feels it’s a non-issue for him and that suddenly it’s a “hot topic.” She was surprised water quality was included at the bottom of his campaign ad.

“I don’t really care what party you’re in, water needs protection, and it’s going to need money,” she said. “And he doesn’t want to vote for any expenditures, and we can’t do that.”

Rob Trotta the night of Nov. 5. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though her husband did not win over the majority of county voters, Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) still beat her opponent, Democrat Margot Rosenthal, 65 to 35 percent. She said, “We could not have done it without every single one of you,” adding, “while we didn’t get everything we wanted this time, we’ll get it next time.”

For the 16th District, Susan Berland (D-Commack) won out against several-time Republican challenger Hector Gavilla. The race became extremely heated towards the end, with allegations that Gavilla intimidated Berland at a local meet the candidates. Gavilla, on his part, claims Berland’s husband nearly assaulted him.

Schaffer spoke on the incident.

“If you wanted to see probably one of the most despicable races in Suffolk County, was the race that took place in the 16 LD,” Schaffer said. “Let me tell you something, it’s a shame when you happen to have a candidate, a legislator who has been in office for almost 20 years, tell you she’s frightened by her opponent.”

Susan Berland thanked her supporters, staff and volunteers.

“I’m grateful to the residents of the 16th district who have confidence in me to represent them for the next two years.”

William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) easily conquered the vote against Republican challenger Garrett Chelius with 11,998 votes to Chelius’ 6,599.

Chelius was brought up on stage for consolation, and Garcia lauded them for their work in campaigning.

Spencer spoke of his ideas and projects going forward.

“I’m looking towards the future — I want to still focus on our environment, our kids, the vaping/opioid epidemic,” he said. “I think there is a lot of work to be done there. Also, I want to finish some infrastructure projects like the sewers in Huntington Station.”

The lone upset of the night, Republican challenger Anthony Piccirillo won with barely a 1 percent margin against William Lindsay (D-Holbrook). The Democrats have asked for a recount, but if Piccirillo succeeds it would mean the Democrats 11-7 hold on the legislature would become a 10-8, just as partisan divide between officials seems at a near peak. Last year, Republicans and Democrats butted heads over lump bonding issues, with Republicans using their slim minority to block bonds they called were being pushed through by Democrats.

David Luces, Rita J. Egan, Leah Chiappino and Donna Deedy all contributed reporting.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo by Kyle Barr

The 2019 race for Suffolk County executive could prove to be closer than in previous years. Incumbent Steve Bellone (D) looks to secure a final term and continue his vision of improving Suffolk’s water quality and getting the county’s finances in check. 

On the other side, you have County Comptroller John Kennedy (R) who knows finances and has been looking out for taxpayers’ pockets. 

Libertarian candidate Greg Fischer also has his mind on the county’s finances and as a former businessman he brought up some interesting ideas. 

The race will be a tough one, but we think reelecting Bellone is the right way to go. 

While Bellone has been criticized for the county finances, we have to remember he inherited a tough task when he came into office in 2012. While he has made some strides in better budget ingduring his tenure, including streamlining government, cutting over 1,300 jobs among other initiatives, there is still work to be done on that front. Kennedy is right to bring up the county’s finances as it remains to be a chief concern and he probably knows more about finances than Bellone, but we feel he is better fit in the county comptroller role than county executive. As comptroller, we hope he can continue to work with Bellone to keep the county spending in check. On other issues, like water quality and public safety, we feel Bellone is better suited to take on those things. Kennedy has a point in criticizing Bellone’s septic improvement system plan as the technology is still relatively new and hasn’t been proven to work. More research will need to be done to ensure these septic systems are working properly for homeowners. 

In the fight against MS-13, Bellone has continue to work with SCPD and community leaders in eliminating the gang from the Island. Kennedy is right that the federal government involvement has been vital in dealing with the gang.

Fischer is passionate about the residents of Long Island and brought up some interesting ideas. Unfortunately when it comes down to it, he just lacks experience compared to the other candidates. We encourage Fischer to continue to be involved in local issues and possibly in the future try to run for more local government positions.

Steve Bellone (D), John Kennedy Jr. (R) and Greg Fischer (L) are facing off for Suffolk County exec. Photos by David Luces

It is a three-man race for the Suffolk County executive seat this year. Incumbent Steve Bellone (D) is vying to secure a final term after coming into office in 2012. Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) and Libertarian candidate Greg Fischer, from Calverton, are looking to unseat Bellone in this year’s election. 

Some topics discussed were the county finances, the opioid and MS-13 situations and Suffolk’s water quality. 

Suffolk County finances

The status of the county’s finances continues to be a pressing issue since Thomas DiNapoli (D), the New York State comptroller, released a report saying Suffolk was under the most “significant fiscal stress” of any county — with Nassau — in the state in 2018 for the second year in a row. Suffolk had an operating deficit of about $26.5 million and a general fund balance deficit of $285 million. 

“When I came into office in 2012 the county was on the brink of bankruptcy, we had a $500 million accumulated deficit.”

— Steve Bellone

Bellone touted since he took office seven years ago, he has made the county government more streamlined, fully eliminated the existing operating deficit and has helped achieve an operating surplus for two consecutive years.

“When I came into office in 2012 the county was on the brink of bankruptcy, we had a $500 million accumulated deficit,” he said. “The county government was completely dysfunctional. Everyone was saying we were heading in the same direction as Nassau County, we were going to have a control board. I told them that was not going to happen, and we made the tough decisions.”

Since Bellone took office, the county government has cut close to 1,300 municipal jobs looking to reduce expenditures. 

Kennedy, who has been the county comptroller for the past five years, said his office has been auditing aggressively, has saved the county upward of $56 million and helped refinance its pipeline debt. He said the county is currently $883 million in operating debt and has a $91 million general fund balance deficit. 

The longtime Suffolk politician argued that the county would probably have to cut back at least $50-60 million from the current operating budget. 

“There’s things in life, you have your wants and your needs — that’s where we are at [right now],” he said. “We have departments that are not running properly, we have to consolidate.”

Kennedy said he would look to implement percentage decreases across the board for contract agencies and in some cases suspend services, similarly to what the county Legislature did in 2008 in the midst of a recession. 

“I am running based on the 15 years of public service — I think I can put us back to balance,” he said.

Fischer put it simply that the county is no different than a big bankrupt company. 

“We are rated lower than Nassau County, which has financial control boards,” he said. “We can’t rely on the state for anything right now.”

If elected, Fischer would freeze further increases in spending immediately as well as freeze future hiring and begin cross-training county employees.

“This is something that has to be done now,” he said. 

Opioids/MS-13 

On opioids, Kennedy said the county has had an addiction issue long before oxycodone was ever cooked up, mentioning morphine, methadone and crystal meth that have been a concern since the late ’80s. 

He said treatment for addicts is one of his main concerns. 

“We have fewer treatment beds in Suffolk County than five to 10 years ago,” Kennedy said. “Availability of treatment beds is the most pressing need right now.”

“I am running based on the 15 years of public service — I think I can put us back to balance.”

— John Kennedy Jr.

Many Republicans have criticized the Bellone administration for the closure and sale of the Foley Center in Yaphank, which they contend would have helped in the fight against the opioid crisis.

The county comptroller said that the governor has to be more proactive in helping the county. In addition, he said law enforcement needs to be more effective. 

Fischer said he lost his brother to heroin and is acutely aware of what is going on in the fight. 

“This is horribly addictive stuff — I believe in ‘scared straight’ programs, bringing in junkies into schools and scaring the crap out of kids,” he said. “I do want more treatment and prevention not just more cops.” 

The county executive maintained a comprehensive approach is the only way to solve the opioids crisis. 

He agreed with Kennedy and Fischer that local law enforcement plays a big part, but that prevention is just as important. 

Bellone touted partnerships with community-based groups and schools and opening DASH, a substance abuse and mental health center in Hauppauge, that is seeing patients 24/7. 

“The inability to provide adequate treatment has been a failure of our country,” he said. “Once you become addicted it is very hard to extricate yourself from it. We have made progress — the state has helped us.”

He also mentioned that the county has decided to sue the people responsible for the opioid epidemic. 

“Though we can’t restore the lives lost, the Sackler family [which controls Purdue Pharma] should be made to pay,” he said. 

On MS-13, Bellone said the Suffolk County Police Department has led the fight against the gang and has helped in getting the lowest crime rate in the history of the county. 

Kennedy and Fischer contend that it is the federal government’s involvement that has swayed the tide in the fight. Though all three candidates agree that while strides have been made, there needs to be continued law enforcement efforts from both the local and federal levels. 

Suffolk’s water quality

Bellone called water quality “the most significant issue of our time in Suffolk County.” 

“Climate change will have certain impacts, but if we don’t address water quality, we are sacrificing the future of the county — we cannot sustain what this place is without protecting water,” he said. 

Bellone said water quality is not only vital for the county’s economy but also to local tourism which brings in billions of dollars each year. 

“It is one of the reasons why people live here and for the quality of life,” he said. 

The county executive defended his septic improvement program which he launched in 2017, saying it has allowed homeowners to replace outdated septic systems and cesspools. He also mentioned that it has helped reduce contaminants in the groundwater.

“We have departments that are not running properly, we have to consolidate.”

— John Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy said his main concern is to continue to identify any suspected contaminants in our groundwater. He supports the Suffolk County Water Authority’s efforts to identify and remove 1,4-dioxane. 

“We need to raise funding to install 31 wells [throughout the county],” he said. 

Another of his concerns is stormwater runoff prevention, which he said, to him, the jury is still out on the advanced septic system, adding that four to six systems are not working properly. 

Fischer said he would propose a “100 projects in 100 weeks” plan if elected, adding there are some things the county could implement right now. 

“I would put a sizable fee or ban on high nitrogen fertilizer — this is dangerous stuff,” he said. 

The Libertarian candidate criticized Bellone’s advanced septic system program, calling it a complete failure and needs to be put into moratorium until it is fixed. 

Fischer also proposed changes to water codes, mentioning gray water — or the water that comes out of baths, sinks and other appliances — and setting certain mandates for new construction.

County Executive Steve Bellone, Legis. Sarah Anker and Assemblyman Steve Englebright were on hand for the ground-breaking ceremony of the North Shore Rail Trail project Oct. 25. Photos by Kyle Barr

On the freshly mowed grass of a right of way in Miller Place, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) held up a yellowing booklet and from it unfurled a map of Long Island. The booklet was from 1972, and the map showed plans for a trail along the North Shore from Wading River to Mount Sinai.

On Oct. 25, little less than 50 years since the first county planner, Lee Koppelman, drew up those plans, officials finally put the first ceremonial shovel in the ground for the 10-mile rails-to-trails project, now dubbed North Shore Rail Trail.

Construction is set to begin in early November.

“This site will become a premier destination for hiking and biking,” the county exec said.

County officials were joined by town, state and town representatives, various civic leaders, along with hiking and biking enthusiasts to dig the first ceremonial dirt piles and pop the cork on a bottle of champagne. 

Officials said construction will start in Mount Sinai and continue through to Wading River. County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said building it could take close to two years to complete. Officials had an expected finish date for fall 2021. The trail will not officially open until the entire project is completed, Anker said.

Local and state officials break ground on the North Shore Rail Trail project Oct.25. Photos by Kyle Barr

Some area residents are unhappy with the new trail, including several whose homes abut the right of way where the trail will extend through. Rocky Point resident Gary Savickas, who has long been a vocal opponent of the new trail, said his property currently overlooks the fence in his backyard which borders the right of way, and walkers will be able to look directly into his yard.

Anker said the county is planning to work with Rocky Point Civic Association in gathering together funds to address barriers and other measures to help with privacy concerns, but there is no word of when that funding will come. 

The current 3-mile Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail has entered its 10th year, and Herb Mones, Three Village Civic Association trustee and active member of the Friends of the Greenway, said many of the complaints he has heard with the new trail are ones he heard during the Setauket trail’s development.

“Now when I walk on the greenway, those very same people will walk up to me and shake my hand,” he said. “The attitude changes, but the attitudes are a result of not having enough of these recreation corridors for people to appreciate.”

For those who enjoy hiking and biking, the tune is much different. Elyse Buchman, who owns Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn in Stony Brook along with husband Marty, said she knows many who will use the trail. On Oct. 13, she and several hundred people from all over the Northeast raised money for the New York Bicycling Coalition, but some who wanted to come to that event didn’t, with many bikers having qualms about riding on roads as congested as some on the North Shore.

“This is a destination, this is for our long-distance riders who want to get to the North Fork, and get there safely,” Elyse Buchman added.

The $8.82 million trail is being funded through federal and state grants, along with Suffolk County funds. The trail was finally confirmed with Bellone signing legislation last year.

Though there are likely people who will want to use both the North Shore Rail Trail and Greenway Trail, they will have a 1-mile stretch between their two end points with several roads in between. The county exec said they are currently creating an interconnected hiking and biking plan, with a general idea to make Suffolk a regional destination for hiking and biking. Included in that plan is a scheme to connect the two ends of the separate trails, though he added there is no definite plan to do so. 

“The connection is a priority,” Bellone said.

 

Suffolk County legislators approved a $3.2 billion budget for 2020 Nov. 6. TBR News Media file photo

County residents got a glimpse of the county’s budget process as the operating budget working group held its first public meeting Oct. 17 when the 2019-20 recommended operating budget was discussed.  

The county operating budget funds employee payroll costs, county departments and a variety of other expenditures. The status of the budget has been in the spotlight since the New York State comptroller, Tom DiNapoli (D), said Suffolk was under “significant fiscal stress” — with Nassau — for the second year in a row. In 2018, Suffolk had an operating deficit of about $26.5 million and a general fund balance deficit of $285 million. 

The topic has been an important issue in the county executive race. The current incumbent, Steve Bellone (D), has stated that during his tenure he has worked to bring the county spending and finances back in check. John Kennedy Jr., the county comptroller and Republican challenger for executive, has stated that the county is in a “fiscal crisis.”

Here is what legislators discussed at the meeting. The proposed operating budget for 2019-20 will be $3.2 billion, an increase from last year’s $3.1 billion budget. 

The recommended budget would look to increase property taxes by $14.66 million (2.14 percent), according to the report. The increase is comprised of a rise in police district property taxes of $16.56 million (2.8 percent). 

The police district will face an $11.3 million deficit by the end of 2019. It is the fourth year in a row that the district will have a deficit. Overtime for the police department in 2019 is estimated at $30.9 million. 

In addition, the county’s general fund, despite seeing an increase of $318 million in revenue from 2015 to 2019, is projected to experience its fifth consecutive deficit in 2019. Combined with the police district, the county may face an operating deficit of some $20 million. 

Sales tax revenue is projected to increase an additional $48.5 million from 2019-20 or about 4.5 percent.  

Another area of concern is the county payroll. It has increased by $315 million in the last seven years, despite the workforce being reduced by 1,250 positions. From the start of 2019 through Sept. 8, the number of active county employees on the payroll declined by approximately 150, according to the report. The recommended expenditures for employee health care in 2020 is projected to increase by approximately by $22.2 million. 

The Budget Review Office also raised concerns in the report that property taxes in the Southwest Sewer District, which covers parts of Babylon and Islip, would decrease by $2.14 million. This could lead to less funds available for sewer projects and potentially increase borrowing. 

In terms of other revenue, the county is projected to see an increase in funds from video lottery terminals at Jake’s 58 Casino Hotel in Islandia. The revenue brought in will increase to $25 million in 2020 compared to $2.9 million in 2018 and $3.3 million in 2019. 

For homeowners, the proposed county property tax will yield an estimated average tax bill of $1,207, an increase of $25. Average taxes per homeowners will increase by $32 in five western towns, including Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington, and decrease by $2 in the county’s five eastern towns. 

 

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone poses with the Hawkins Path Recycling Crew. Photo from Bellone's office

Thanks to a Suffolk County pilot program, students in the Middle Country Central School District have been learning about the importance of recycling and have been quite successful at the task.

On Oct. 3, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) came to Hawkins Path Elementary School in Selden to announce that students who participated in the Suffolk School Recycling Program, which was launched last year, recycled 35 tons of paper during the 2018-19 school year. Hawkins Path students, as well as New Lane Elementary School in Selden and Unity Drive PreK/Kindergarten Center in Centereach, were among the more than 6,000 children that participated in the partnership with the county.

During the pilot program, Hawkins Path, Unity Drive and New Lane recycled 2,330, 4,554 and 8,043 pounds of paper, respectively. Hawkins Path and New Lane also recycled a combined total of approximately half a ton of bottles and cans, according to county officials.

Roberta Gerold, Middle Country Central School District superintendent, congratulated the schools.

“Our students’ enthusiasm for this project clearly articulates the value of recycling and of sustaining resources,” she said. “The Suffolk School Recycling Program has inspired all of us in Middle Country. We are so proud of our students and staff’s work.”

In 2018, as part of Suffolk’s pilot program, 1,000 recycling bins were delivered to 12 schools allowing each building to have two bins for each classroom, office cafeteria and athletic field. Schools were also provided with scales to measure recycled materials.

According to county officials, recycling 35 tons of paper translates into the students saving 595 trees, 150,000 kilowatt hours of energy, 331 barrels of oil, 1,988 BTUs of energy, 245,000 gallons of water, 145 cubic yards of landfill space and stops 2,100 pounds of air pollution from being released.

“We launched a new kind of program to prove that students can help improve our recycling efforts and actually measure how much of an impact that they are having on our environment,” Bellone said. “The results are undeniable, the program is working, and we will continue to look for new opportunities to expand the initiative to protect and preserve our Island.”

The press conference was Bellone’s second visit to Hawkins Path Elementary School in 2019. Earlier this year he met with the school’s fifth-grade students who showed examples of their recycling work.

In addition to Middle Country schools, the county worked with Harley Avenue Primary School, James Boyd Intermediate School, Elwood Middle School, John Glenn High School, Twin
Pines Elementary School, Hemlock Park Elementary, Hampton Bays Elementary, Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School and Quogue Elementary. The county anticipates working with other school districts in the near future to develop the program on a larger scale.

Suffolk County Police Department conducted a two-week undercover sting operation on businesses that were illegally selling vaping products to minors. TBR News Media file photo

As part of a two-week undercover sting operation dubbed “Operation Vape Out,” Suffolk Police found that more than two dozen business had been illegally selling e-cigarettes and tobacco to individuals under 21.

The operation, which occurred from Sept. 4 through Sept. 18. It resulted in 32 violations issued to employees of those businesses.

“After years of a steady decline in nicotine addiction and cigarette sales, the introduction of vaporizers has reversed this positive trend so that nicotine addiction is once again on the rise,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone (D). “This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in Suffolk County. In a coordinated effort with the Suffolk County Police Department and the Department of Health, a sting operation uncovered 30 establishments that allegedly sold these products to minors and arrests have been made.”

In 2014, 73 percent of high school students and 56 percent of middle school students who used tobacco products in the past 30 days reported using a flavored tobacco product during that time, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some local businesses that were charged with the sale of e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine to persons under 21 were:

  • VaporFi, located at 229B Smithtown Blvd., Nesconset
  • Aroma Smoke Shop, 6 East Main St., Smithtown
  • Island Wood Cigars and Vapors, located at 298 Maple Ave., Smithtown
  • James Vape Shop, located at 448 Lake Ave., Saint James

The following businesses were charged with unlawfully dealing with a child 2nddegree:

  • 76 Gas, located at 1714 New York Ave., Huntington Station
  • The Barn, located at 2020 Jericho Turnpike, East Northport
  • Hemp Clouds , located at 1515 Route 25, Selden
  • Hookah City, located at 202 Main St., Port Jefferson

“The department will continue to target the issue of vaping with increased education and enforcement efforts,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart. “We urge businesses to check IDs when selling vape products and abide by the ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes because we will continue to check for compliance.”

In addition, Bellone announced the expansion of the Health Department’s vaping prevention and intervention program, known as VAPE OUT!, by adding community youth vaping cessation classes. The program also includes peer and parent education forums and alternatives to suspension enforcement programs.

Over 200 high school students were trained as peer educators and they presented VAPE OUT! to over 1,840 middle school students, Bellone said in a statement.

 

Bee Witched Honey at the Port Jefferson Winters Farmers Market. File Photo by Giselle Barkley

Those who are trying to grow it and sell it on Long Island have a new way to try and get their business on the map.

Suffolk County announced that through the Choose LI – Local and Independent initiative, local businesses can request a free “Choose LI” or “Take the Pledge” sign to display at their farm stand, farmers market, fish market, brewery, cidery, distillery or vineyard. The signs, printed on white corrugated plastic measuring either 18 × 24 feet or 30 × 40 feet, can be requested online through the chooseli.org website. To date, more than 46 local businesses have signed up, according to a county press release.

“Our local farmstands, fish markets, vineyards and breweries are the backbone of our community and we want residents to continue to take advantage of these locally grown and harvested products,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in a release. 

The Choose LI initiative asks local residents and visitors to choose goods from local and independent farmers and fishermen. Suffolk is asking residents to “Take the Pledge” and commit to spending 10 percent of their weekly food budget, approximately $17.60, on local and independent food goods.

The website includes a searchable and interactive map of all the farmstands, farmers markets, fish markets, vineyards, breweries, cideries and distilleries in Suffolk County

The searchable map currently lists 25 farmers markets, 115 farmstands, 33 breweries, 4 distilleries, 2 cideries, 33 fish markets, 51 vineyards, 21 restaurants selling local oysters and 49 flower retailers. Anyone who visits the website can interact with the map, finding the exact address, hours of operation, phone number, and website of the business they are looking for. If your business selling Long Island produce is missing from the county map, please contact Choose LI at chooseli@suffolkcountyny.gov.