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Dee Parrish

Dee Parrish will begin her third term as Poquott mayor. Photo from Dee Parish

Voters in the Village of Poquott said yes to the future while keeping the status quo.

Chris Schleider. Photo from Chris Schleider

Incumbent mayor Dee Parrish and sitting trustees William Poupis and Chris Schleider, who ran on the Future ticket in the June 19 village election, retained their seats.

Parrish defeated challenger John Richardson 240 to 204, according to village Deputy Clerk Cindy Schleider. Richardson is a board trustee who is currently serving his first term.

Trustees Poupis and Schleider received 235 and 241 votes, respectively, beating challengers Felicia Chillak, who received 199 votes, and Dianna Padilla, who garnered 204, according to the deputy clerk.

An issue of contention in the village for the last few years has been the proposal of a community dock, which all Future candidates support despite tabling a vote on the dock earlier this year due to bids coming in at more than the $150,000 originally expected.

“We have to look at everything before we decide how this is going to impact residents in the future,” Parrish said in a previous interview with TBR News Media.

Poupis and Schleider, who were appointed to their positions by the mayor in 2017, said they felt it was important to get the stamp of approval from their fellow residents.

William Poupis. Photo from William Poupis

“One of the things about being appointed you don’t necessarily feel that you have the mandate of the people behind you,” Schleider said in a prior interview with TBR News Media. “I was honored by Dee asking, but I think it’s important to have the voice of the people to elect the official.”

The day after the election Poupis said he looked forward to getting back to work with his fellow village board members.

“There’s lots of work ahead,” Poupis said. “We got a village to bring together. We got a lot of great ideas about incorporating some things into our standard once-a-month village meetings, maybe having some town hall meetings every other month, so that people in an unofficial forum can come in, speak freely, voice concerns, with those concerns voice some solutions and as a group work together to find the common goals.”

On the Facebook page Poquott Life Matters, Richardson thanked those who supported him, Chillak and Padilla.

“The plans and ideas we spoke about on your doorstep, I truly hope will become a reality in the future of our village,” Richardson wrote. “As a trustee, I will continue to be your voice on the board. I welcome all concerns big or small.”

Poquott residents are protesting the village board trustees approving a 5-year bond for a community dock. File photo

As residents prepare to vote in the Village of Poquott June 19, candidates still see a proposed dock and communication among the village’s biggest issues.

Dee Parrish

Incumbent Dee Parrish is running for a third term as mayor on the Future ticket along with current trustees William Poupis and Chris Schleider. Both were appointed by the mayor in 2017 after former trustees, Michael Schaefer and John Mastauskas, resigned.

Sitting board member John Richardson is challenging Parrish for mayor and is running on the We the People ticket along with trustee candidates, Felicia Chillak and Dianna Padilla.

Parrish, an accountant, said she has not raised village taxes for the last three years. When she entered office in 2014, she said there was $86,000 in the village’s account and now there is nearly $154,000, a savings the board accomplished while improving village parks, roads and drainage.

“I actually ran the village for the last three years like a business, because [my husband and I] have our own business, because that’s what really needed to be done to keep us on track on the budget, to keep spending to finally doing things cheaper,” she said, adding her family owns an environmental consulting company.

Richardson, a New York City firefighter, said his reason for running for mayor this year is the same reason he ran for trustee in 2017 — he feels residents cannot speak freely at public hearings.

John Richardson

“I feel that people should have more say in what’s going on,” he said. “I know we elect our officials to make decisions for us. But if people are griping about it … and they’re not being heard, maybe there’s more to it.”

Chillak, a realtor, and Padilla, a Stony Brook University ecology professor, want residents to feel comfortable speaking up, something they feel some villagers are hesitant to do. One issue they say needs more community input is the proposed community dock.

Parrish, who is in favor of the dock, said due to bids coming in at more than the $150,000 originally expected, the board is holding off on a vote. She said the idea of a dock developed from a simple pier, where people could fish and dock boats, to a bigger project due to the village having to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and required lighting.

“We have to look at everything before we decide how this is going to impact residents in the future,” Parrish said, adding she will be affected by the decision too.

Richardson, Chillak and Padilla said the dock should be put to a referendum, so residents can vote on it instead of the board making the decision.

Felicia Chillak

“I believe everybody should have a voice, whether you agree with me or don’t agree with me let’s talk about it,” Chillak said.

Both Schleider, a teacher, and Poupis, vice president of operations for a nationwide drilling company, said they feel the board is open to residents’ comments on the docks and other issues. Poupis said he hopes to put a procedure in place to make it even easier for them.

“I just wish for every complaint [that] you had three potential ways to repair it,” the current trustee said he asks critics.

While Padilla said she believes residents should have more input when it comes to a dock, she is against it. The challenger said it can be environmentally damaging, including disrupting living creatures at the bottom of the water during installation and its shade negatively impacting fish and shellfish.

“There is no need for this dock,” she said. “There are nearby docks that people can use. This is not going to be a place where people can tie up their boats. It will be for loading and unloading only.”

All three challengers also have concerns as to whether or not the dock is financially responsible, especially with the board considering taking $34,000 from the village’s fund balance for the first installment of a five-year note.

“I’m not saying the dock is not an option,” Chillak said. “I’m saying let the people decide, and we will openly discuss.”

Chris Schleider

Schleider, who said he became trustee to show his kids the importance of civic responsibility, is in favor of the community dock.

“I think that the village hasn’t spent money on something like this in a long time,” he said “It’s nice to have a centerpiece for the village to utilize.”

Poupis said the dock would draw more people to the village and possibly increase real estate values.

“It’s being able to look at the village and trying to project out where it’s going to be in five or 10 years,” he said. “That’s where you really separate someone who is just sitting in the mayor’s chair versus someone who is actively looking at the growth of the village.”

The We the People ticket said many who have spoken out against the board have received code violations. While they don’t deny that violations exist in village homes, some infractions are similar to neighbors who haven’t been reported.

Parrish said the building department, code enforcement, public works and the board meet every week. The mayor said any complaints the village clerk receives from residents are given to code enforcement, which inspects the problem and decides what to do. Parrish said everyone is given an appropriate amount of time to address the issue.

Dianna Padilla

Richardson said he was targeted after running for trustee last year. When he applied to renew a permit to work on his balcony, he said he received it and then the permit was rescinded by the village attorney. He said he needed an extension because once he started working on the balcony it needed more work than anticipated. He alleged code enforcement is unfairly cracking down on people. While he believes there are issues that need to be addressed, he feels there is overregulation, and the village should reach out to residents before penalizing them to fully understand what is going on.

“There’s always a different side to every story,” he said about reaching out to potential code violators. “I think in a village with only 357 households we have the capacity to do that as a village and a community.”

Parrish said when Richardson asked for an extension to continue working on his balcony, the village court discovered he never closed out a 2003 permit for a second floor on his home and therefore he doesn’t have a current certificate of occupancy. Richardson said the building inspector approved and signed off on his CO April 20, and he is waiting for the village to approve it.

William Poupis

All the candidates are in agreement that improvements need to be made to Walnut Beach. Parrish said they are cleaning the beach up and are thinking of bringing in sand to replenish it. Padilla said replenishing the beach with sand may not be the answer as it’s environmentally unsound because dredge spoils can smother anything aliveunderneath it.

Incumbent Schleider said the beach brings back many happy memories for his in-laws, and he hopes the spot will be preserved for his children to visit one day.

“It’s one of the things I am most passionate about is maintaining that shoreline we have,” he said.

The Village of Poquott will hold its annual election Tuesday, June 19, at Village Hall, located at 45 Birchwood Ave. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m.

Mayor Dolores ‘Dee’ Parrish will serve another two-year term in Poquott. File photo

Incumbent Mayor Dolores “Dee” Parrish defeated challenger Barbara Donovan in her bid for a second term at the helm of Poquott Village on Election Day Tuesday.

Parrish did not appear on the ballot after a state Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of a lawsuit, brought about in part by Donovan, that claimed there were errors in her nominating petition, yet she received 239 write-in votes. Donovan received 190 votes. The race was a rematch of the 2014 election, which saw Parrish unseat Donovan, who was a 12-year incumbent.

Fifteen-year village resident Michael Schaefer and member of Poquott’s planning board captured one of the trustee seats up for election, while small business owner and lifelong Three Village resident John Mastauskas grabbed the other. Schaefer campaigned with Donovan and former Village Clerk Joan Hubbard as a member of the Party of Unity and Respect. Mastauskas, like Parrish and trustee candidates Gary Garofano and Sandra Nicoletti, was forced to pursue election as a write-in candidate.

Schaefer and Mastauskas received 205 and 198 votes, respectively. Hubbard finished third with 187 votes. Nicoletti’s name was written in 149 times, and Garofano’s 82.

None of the seven candidates could be reached for comment by press time Wednesday.

Lawsuits, allegations, closed-door meetings and hard feelings highlighted the campaign in the buildup to Tuesday’s vote. Parrish reached out to voters on the eve of the election Monday night in a nearly 2,000-word email.

“I will continue to improve the beaches and parks, and I will continue to run quality community events for all ages,” Parrish said. “My thoughts are that if beaches and parks are beautiful, safe and remain pet-friendly, people will come out to enjoy them. Physically bringing people together is the first step toward quenching the fires sparked by the few at the expense of the many.”

The Incorporated Village of Poquott. File photo

It is now known whose names will appear on the ballot for Village of Poquott residents when they head to the polls to elect a mayor and two board trustees on June 21.

State Supreme Court Justice W. Gerard Asher ruled Wednesday on the challenge filed by mayoral candidate Barbara Donovan and her running mates Michael Schaefer and Joan Hubbard of the validity of petitions submitted by incumbent mayor Dee Parrish and trustee hopefuls Gary Garofano, Sandy Nicoletti and John Mastauskas.

Justice Asher found in favor of Donovan and her party, according to the state Supreme Court office. Parrish, Garofano, Nicoletti and Mastauskas will not appear on the ballot.

Donovan, Schaefer and Hubbard, known as the party of “Unity and Respect,” filed the challenge to the petitions because they believed the petitions contained errors, and names and signatures submitted may have been photocopied, Donovan told Newsday in May.

Since the challenges were filed, tension has spread within the tiny community that falls within the Town of Brookhaven. On June 1, Parrish and the rest of the current board, which includes Nicoletti, called an emergency meeting to discuss what action they would take in response to the challenge filed by Donovan and her party. Donovan served as the village’s mayor for years until Parrish defeated her in the 2014 election.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board immediately moved into executive session behind closed doors, leaving community members frustrated and searching for clarity.

When they returned, the board briefly discussed their options regarding the challenge, before voting to allow for additional expenses incurred as a result of the suit against the village and Village Clerk Joe Newfield regarding the petitions to be covered. The meeting was adjourned and no public comment was allowed. Parrish and Village Attorney Joe Prokop declined to comment about the situation after the meeting.

Parrish commented on the legal battle on June 2 via email.

“It is unfortunate that a group that has based their platform on respect and unity has managed to disrespect the residents in the Village of Poquott through the filing of this suit,” she said.

Parrish sited a possible chilling effect that the suit could have on potential candidates in the future as a harmful precedent for the village to set.

Village resident John Hahm, unsatisfied with the outcome of the June 1 meeting submitted a letter to the Village Times Herald on June 2.

“Challenging petitions is not a political strategy, it is a demand for accountability when a person deliberately disregards the law,” Hahm said. “Two of the petitioners happen to be current board members who promised open and transparent government. Surely they could have produced their petitions before acknowledging that the challenges were detrimental to the spirit of an election.”

Robert Lifson, attorney for Parrish and her running mates said Wednesday in a phone interview he was “disappointed” by the ruling. He wouldn’t specify his clients’ plan of action going forward, but suggested an appeal was possible. Lifson also said it’s not beyond the realm of possibilities to win a village election without being on the ballot. He said he advised his clients to drop their defense prior to the ruling because the costs to fight the suit would be too great.

Divers with the Suffolk County Police Department pursue the aircraft as the missing person search continues. Photo from Margo Arceri

By Phil Corso

 

Story last updated 2.22.16, 12:30 p.m.

Police are combing through the region where Port Jefferson Harbor and Setauket Harbor meet near Poquott after a small plane crashed there late Saturday night, authorities said.

The small plane, which cops said was a Piper PA-28 carrying four people, went down shortly after 11 p.m. near the vicinity of 108 Van Brunt Manor Rd., Poquott Mayor Dee Parrish said. An extensive response from emergency personnel followed, during which three people were recovered from the water — but one remained missing, and that search was ongoing through the beginning of this week, officials said.

Police said on Sunday that a student pilot, 25-year-old Bronx resident Austricio Ramirez was flying the plane when the problems arose and turned the controls over to his instructor, 36-year-old Queens resident Nelson Gomez, who landed the plane in the harbor.

All the passengers in the four-seater plane were able to exit into the water, after which Ramirez, Nelson and passenger Wady Perez, a 25-year-old from Queens, were rescued by police.

But Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the search and rescue operation remained in effect for one missing person, who was identified as 23-year-old Queens resident Gerson Salmon-Negron, with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard.

“We’re going to do everything we can to find that individual,” he said.

The three people pulled from the water were being treated at Stony Brook University Hospital, officials said. They have since been released.

Peter Stubberfield of Poquott said he and his wife heard the plane flying immediately above his house off the harbor Saturday night immediately followed by the sound of emergency vehicles.

“Within minutes of hearing the plane, there were about 15 to 20 emergency vehicles right in front of our private drive,” he said. “There were two helicopters flying around continually, so we assumed something was going on in the water.”

Margo Arceri, who lives on the Strongs Neck side of the water where the plane crashed, said she and her neighbors jumped into action as soon as they noticed emergency vehicles making their way into the small North Shore community. Upon stepping outside Saturday night, Arceri said she watched emergency personnel pull survivors out of the water, wrap them in blankets and remove them to the nearby hospital.

As the incident unfolded, Arceri said everyone living along the shoreline did something to help, whether that meant picking up a telephone, making way for emergency responders, or even offering up their personal kayaks for rescuers to use to lift the survivors out to safety.

“Where this occurred, there are only a few homes, but instantly, the neighbors pulled together,” she said. “They say, ‘it takes a village,’ and these neighbors showed a real sense of community. We all pulled together immediately. I just wish it had a happier ending.”

One eyewitness who did not want to be named said she called the police Saturday night after watching the plane fly over her Poquott home and into the water. Seconds after hitting the water, the resident said she heard the survivors in the water yelling to each other.

“It sounded like they were talking to each other — not calling out for assistance. I yelled to them to ask if they needed help, but they didn’t hear me at all,” she said. “Within seconds, I saw a large helicopter overhead.”

Police arrived soon after, the woman said, and she and her husband then offered up their three personal kayaks to rescuers, who used the boats to retrieve the survivors.

“I just wish I had put the phone down and run down to the beach,” the witness said. “I just watched. I saw the lights on the plane go out. I’m having a really horrible time with this whole thing.”

A spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday that the plane was en route to Republic Airport in Farmingdale, after taking off from Fitchburg, Mass., but the pilot was reporting engine issues before attempting a forced landing.

Both the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were at the scene of the crash from Saturday night into the beginning of this week to help with the search efforts, authorities said. Also helping the Suffolk County Police Department and the Coast Guard were local fire departments and the town harbormaster.

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