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Greenlawn firefighters proudly showcased their dedication to service and community to kickoff the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Greenlawn Fire Department hosted its annual parade Thursday night, Aug. 30, as bagpipers, marching bands, historic trucks and hundreds of volunteer firemen marched their way down Broadway. The parade marks the start of the Greenlawn Firemen’s Fair —which claims to be the state’s oldest fair — running from Aug. 30 through Labor Day. The fairgrounds are closed Sept. 2.

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Update at 4:15 p.m.:  Suffolk County police have announced that Rodriguez has died as result of his injuries.

Original: Suffolk County Police Major Case Unit detectives are investigating a hit-and-run crash that seriously injured a pedestrian in Huntington early Thursday morning.

Veronica Borracci. Photo from SCPD

Sair Rodriguez was walking on the southbound shoulder of Broadway at the intersection of Legacy Court in Huntington Aug. 2 when he was struck by a vehicle traveling southbound on Broadway. Rodriguez, 32, of Greenlawn was transported to Huntington Hospital by Greenlawn Fire Department where he later died of his injuries.

Detectives believe the vehicle that struck Rodriguez was a blue Hyundai Elantra, with possible front end damage and a missing passenger side view mirror.

Police arrested Veronica Borracci, 17, of Dix Hills, at approximately 9 a.m. and charged her with allegedly  leaving the scene of an accident Resulting in death. She will be held overnight at the 2nd Precinct for arraignment Aug. 3 at 1st District Court in Central Islip.

The investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information to call the Major Case Unit at 631-852-6555 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).

The Weiss family and friends place daisies into the waters off Centerport Yacht Club in memory of Ryan Weiss. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Suffolk County’s newest boating safety law aims to prevent future tragedies like the one that claimed the life of a Greenlawn boy last summer.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed legislation July 28 at Centerport Yacht Club named Ryan’s Law that will require all boats used for instructing minors to be equipped with propeller guards. After the tragic death of their 12-year-old son, Ryan, Greenlawn resident Kellie Weiss and her husband, Kevin, led the charge calling for a law change.

“We stand here forever heartbroken,” Weiss said. “Although this can’t bring Ryan back to us today, we hope that we have the opportunity to protect someone else, some other child out there.”

Ryan died July 18, 2017, when he was taking part in a boating lesson at Centerport Yacht Club where the vessel was intentionally capsized in a controlled manner. An 18-year-old instructor operating a small Zodiac inflatable boat pulled him from the water and onto the inflatable raft. As the instructor started to move the boat forward, Ryan again fell into the water and became entangled in the propeller.

“This is Ryan’s happy place,” Weiss said, wiping away tears. “I know in my heart he did what he loved to do.”

The Weiss family and elected officials look on as Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signs Ryan’s Law. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Under the new law, anyone who owns a boat used for instructional lessons that is registered in Suffolk or operates in county waters must install a propeller guard, a metal cage that surrounds the propeller of a motorized boat. The legislation was unanimously co-sponsored and then approved by all 18 members of the Suffolk County Legislature in June.

“This is a family that has really had to bind together over the last year,” Suffolk Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said, crediting the Weiss’ advocacy in getting the legislation passed. “What they have done is nothing short of incredible, to take something that is so deep and painful, and turn it into something positive.”

The law will take effect in approximately 90 days, giving boat owners an opportunity to modify their watercrafts as necessary. Those caught operating an instructional boat without a propeller guard will be fined between $250 and $500 for first offenses and from $750 to $1,500 for subsequent violations.

Erik Rosanes, commodore of the Centerport Yacht Club, said his club is onboard with the legislation.

“As we continue in our club’s mission to encourage the sport of yachting and educate the next generation of sailors, we look forward to promoting any measures that may improve the safety of our children in and on the water,” Rosanes said.

The Weiss family and members of the yacht club were joined by New York State, Suffolk and Town of Huntington elected officials in placing white daisies into the waters of Northport Harbor in memory of Ryan. Flowers were also placed on a rock marked with his initials.

Kellie Weiss said she is hopeful that one day propeller guards will become mandatory under New York State law.

“We urge every parent who has a child, teen or young adult who is going to be operating a boat or wave runner,” she said. “Think about installing a prop guard to protect your kid. No one wants to get the phone call we got a year ago.”

The Town of Huntington hosted its 5th annual tournament at Coral Park July 21

The Town of Huntington hosted its fifth annual Co-Ed Basketball Tournament at Coral Park in Greenlawn July 21.

Teens between the ages of 12 to 18 came out for a number of friendly half-court games in a round-robin tournament. Those games were followed by an alumni game with teams made with graduates from area high schools. While the kids played, event organizers stood on the sidelines and shouted advice and encouragement to the young players on the court.

“We do this every year to keep kids out of trouble,” tournament organizer Vernon Lowe said. “Somebody did it for me when I was growing up, and somebody should do it for them.”

Several kids were given awards for being recognized as Most Valuable Player by the tournament organizers. Huntington High School student Omari Stephen, who plays boys’ junior varsity basketball team, and Leisaan Hibbert, of Dix Hills, were awarded MVP for the youth tournament. Damique Reddick, a 2016 graduate of John H. Glenn High School in Elwood, won MVP for the alumni game.

The four-bedroom affordable Greenlawn home in Harborfield Estates that will be sold for $221,000. Photo from Town of Huntington

One lucky family will have the chance to move into a new Greenlawn home for $221,000 — if they can beat the odds.

The Town of Huntington started accepting applications July 16 from first-time homebuyers interested in moving into a four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom house in Harborfields Estates. The housing complex is a collection of 47 single-family homes on half-acre plots ordinarily sold at starting at $800,000 each, according to the development’s website. A lottery will be held Sept. 5 to choose at random an individual or family who will be offered the opportunity to purchase the property for about a quarter of the usual cost.

“This is a very unique opportunity for a first-time homebuyer,” said Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). “The exterior is beautiful and I cannot wait to see what it looks like when the interior is complete.”

“This is a very unique opportunity for a first-time homebuyer.”

– Chad Lupinacci

Leah Jefferson, director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, which oversees the town’s Affordable Housing Program, said this is the first time the town is holding a lottery for a single-family home. The two-story house, constructed by developer Island Estate Homes, will be a little less than 2,8500 square feet and move-in ready by the 2018 holiday season.

She said she expects there to be high interest in the property. When town officials held a lottery for affordable senior housing at The Seasons in Elwood in January, the CDA director said nearly 400 applications were received for 10 available units.

“Even though there is only one unit for sale, I would not let that impede people from applying,” Jefferson said. “One person has as good of a chance as anyone else to obtain the unit.”

In order to qualify, those interested must be a first-time homebuyer which the town has defined as a person who has never owned a home, has not owned a home in the last three years or is a displaced homemaker. The purchaser must also demonstrate that their total income — including adult persons age 18 and older combined salary, overtime, bonuses, pensions, social security, tips, etc. — does not exceed 80 percent of the area’s average median income of $61,350 for a single individual increasing to $87,600 for a family of four, in accordance with federal guidelines set by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“One person has as good of a chance as anyone else to obtain the unit.”

– Leah Jefferson

“[The purchaser] must give us three years information,” Jefferson said. “If their salary has fluctuated or changed, we will work on the average.”

All applicants must be able to secure a mortgage on their own, according to the CDA director, as the town will not offer financial assistance or financing options. In addition to mortgage payments, the town has estimated potential owners should account for paying $6,000 annually in real estate taxes and $460 in homeowner association fees, which will be billed twice a year.

Town officials will not host an open house, but interested purchasers may contact the developer, at 631-588-8818 to set up a tour of the property.

Those interested must fill out the forms available online at www.huntingtonny.gov/harborfieldsestates by Aug. 17 at 4 p.m. There is a non-refundable processing fee of $26.50 and only one application may be submitted per household.

Income Guidelines to Qualify

Household size     Maximum Income
1 person               $61,350
2 persons              $70,100
3 persons              $78,850
4 persons              $87,600
5 persons              $94,650
6 persons              $101,650

Jefferson said a live lottery will be held Sept. 5 in Room 114 of Town Hall at 5 p.m. There will be two drawings, according to the CDA director. The first will create a priority list for those who are a current resident or employed by a business located in the Town of Huntington, and non-residents who can show they have relatives living in the Town of Huntington. The second drawing will be for all other applicants.

The selected purchaser will not be required to live in the house for any specific length of time, according to Jefferson, as sometimes required with many down payment assistance programs. However, there is a restrictive covenant on the house that the owner must promise to contact the CDA upon putting the house up for resale in the future so as it will remain affordable in perpetuity.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Jefferson said. “It’s not just another rental property, it’s something that they can list and invest in.”

Anyone with questions regarding the application guidelines should contact the Huntington Community Development Agency at 631-351-2884.

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Suffolk County police 2nd squad detectives are investigating a car accident that killed a man in Greenlawn Friday night.

Police said Michael Spera was driving a 1995 Nissan westbound on Clay Pitts Road near Stratford Avenue when he lost control and the car overturned at approximately 6:50 p.m. May 18. Spera, 34, of East Northport, was transported to Huntington Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Christopher Walsh, 36, of East Northport, a passenger in the car, was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information about the crash to call the 2nd squad at 631-854-8252.

Planet Gas on Pulaski Road in Greenlawn. Photo from Google Maps

Suffolk County police arrested three people for selling e-liquid nicotine to minors at businesses located in the Town of Huntington.

In response to community complaints, 2nd Precinct crime section officers and representatives from Suffolk’s Department of Health Services Tobacco Regulation Enforcement Unit conducted an investigation into the sale of e-liquid nicotine to minors at 11 businesses.

The following people were arrested and charged with second-degree unlawfully dealing with a child:

  • Ramazan Gurler, 49, of Deer Park, employed at Planet Gas on Pulaski Road in Greenlawn
  • Tasabbir Hossain, 25, of Ronkonkoma, employed at 110 Convenience on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station
  • Somesh Dhawan, 30, of Queens Village, employed at Evolve IV Smoke Shop on Jericho Turnpike in East Northport

The owners of the above businesses were issued a notice of violation by the county’s Department of Health.

The following businesses complied, and refused the sale of e-liquid nicotine to minors:

  • Smoke Shop, located at 6318 Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • Long Island Vape, located at 469A East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station
  • Gotham Smoke & Novelty Shop, located at 681 East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station
  • Whatever Vape Shop, located at 675 Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station
  • East Coast Psychedelics, located at 6124 Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • Liquid Lyfe Vapor Shop, located at 6160 East Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • Gulf Gas, located at 253 Broadway in Greenlawn
  • Mr. Tobacco, located at 2031 Jericho Turnpike in East Northport

The three people arrested were issued field appearance tickets and are scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on a later date.

6,000-square-foot home would be built on Cuba Hill Road in Greenlawn

A conceptual rendering of the proposed K.I.D.S. Plus adult group home in Greenlawn. Photo from Facebook

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Northport advocate and Cuba Hill Road residents will have additional time to reach an understanding over a proposed Greenlawn adult home.

Huntington Town Board voted to unanimously Jan. 3 to extend the time to make a decision on whether K.I.D.S. Plus Inc. should receive a special use permit to operate an adult home off Cuba Hill Road for those with physical and developmental disabilities age 21 and over.

Dozens of residents have spoken up with concerns about the proposed 6,000 square-foot building since the town’s Oct. 17 public hearing, citing concerns about traffic, landscaping, overall size of the home and density of group homes in the area.

“The homes tend not to be very large; the properties are large, that’s why we like to live there,” said Taylor McLam in October, a Cuba Hill Road homeowner who said his residence is approximately 1,200 square feet by comparison. “Seven times the size of my house seems a little much.”

Cuba Hill resident John Wilson presented the town with a petition signed by approximately 30 residents at their Jan. 3 meeting.

“One of the conditions is it shouldn’t change the character of the neighborhood,” he said. “This neighborhood is a section of Cuba Hill Road between Manor and Little Plains Road, that isn’t very built up. The houses are generally on more than an acre.”

A conceptual sketch of the interior layout of K.I.D.S. Plus proposed Greenlawn home for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities. Rendering from K.I.D.S. Plus.

K.I.D.S. Plus founder Tammie Murphy Topel, a Northport resident, said she has hosted two community meetings since October 2017 to hear and address the Greenlawn residents’ concerns, in addition to one-on-one meetings. Based on their feedback, Murphy Topel said she’s made revisions to her proposed building plans.

“We want to know what’s going on in the community, we want to be good neighbors,” she said. “We don’t want to be adversarial in any way.”

One of the most cited issues, according to Murphy Topel, was the appearance of the originally planned 26-foot-wide driveway for vehicles. After speaking with Huntington officials, changes have been made to narrow that to 20 feet, the width of a standard two-car
garage, according to Murphy Topel.

She said significant work has been put into the landscaping of the outside of the building, sharing an artistic rendering showing a variety of indigenous trees planted postconstruction to help obscure view of the building from Cuba Hill Road and its neighbors. The outdoor lighting will feature gooseneck barn lamps to direct the light downward instead of out, according to
Murphy Topel, with some subtle ground lighting along the driveway.

Murphy Topel hopes to share these new renderings and changes with concerned Greenlawn residents at a community meeting set for Jan. 19, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Harborfields Public Library. She said she has invited all town board members, town planning officials and any residents.

One thing she won’t consider is downsizing the 6,000-square-foot size of the home featuring suites for eight individuals, she said, which is all one level.

“These are people with disabilities looking at this as a forever home,” Murphy Topel said. “We are looking into the future when there will be ambulatory issues. We don’t want them to be navigating stairs.”

Even the K.I.D.S. Plus founder had to admit though, the parcel she purchased  on Cuba Hill Road is less than ideal for constructing the home, due to its hilly nature, the amount of grading and retaining walls that will be required.

“By designation in the [town] code, we have to have a two-acre piece of property and in the town of Huntington, there’s not a whole lot of two-acre pieces of property that are affordable,” Murphy Topel said. “If someone else can find me a two-acre piece of property for $400,000, I would take it, flip this land and build elsewhere.”

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Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating a two-vehicle crash that killed a Centerport man Nov. 6.

Tyler Gomes was driving a 2007 Subaru eastbound on Cuba Hill Road in Greenlawn when he lost control of his vehicle, crossed into the westbound lane and struck a 2016 Toyota 4Runner, driven by Allison Raich, at approximately 9:35 a.m.

Gomez, 26, who was alone in his vehicle, was transported to Huntington Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Raich, 33, of East Northport, and her 9-month-old son were transported to Huntington Hospital where Raich was treated for broken bones and the child was evaluated and released.

Both vehicles were impounded for a safety check and the investigation is ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252.

A conceptual rendering of the proposed K.I.D.S. Plus adult group home in Greenlawn. Photo from Facebook

Greenlawn residents rallied before Huntington Town officials Oct. 17 seeking answers to their questions about proposed plans for a group home on Cuba Hill Road.

More than a dozen community members spoke out at the town board meeting in which the Northport-based nonprofit K.I.D.S. Plus presented plans for an 8,000-square-foot group home for adults with physical and developmental disabilities. Residents raised concerns about traffic, noise, overall size of the home and density of group homes in the area, but ultimately found themselves with more questions than answers.

“I’m really trying hard not to have the knee-jerk reaction of not in my backyard,” said Manan Shah, a Cuba Hill Road homeowner. “We want to be partners. We want to understand. But to ask us to give you an 8,000-square-foot home without giving us information is unfair.”

Sergio Gallardo, of Greenlawn, said the Cuba Hill Road residents weren’t given an opportunity to speak with K.I.D.S. Plus founder Tammie Topel to learn what types of disabilities the home’s residents would have or review the business plans.

“We assumed you would have sat down with the people who live in the area prior to this hearing,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said. “Obviously, that didn’t happen.”

Topel, a Northport resident and member of the Northport school district’s board of education, is a well-known advocate for children with special needs as she has spoken publicly on several occasions about her son, Brandon, who is diagnosed with autism. She explained her “dream” plan is to build a group home for eight adults, 21 years of age and older, on the 2-acre wooded lot. The house would have an administrator/coordinator on site 24/7 to oversee the health and safety of residents in addition to a rotating staff of specialists and caregivers based on individual residents’ needs, according to Topel.

“There is a waiting list in New York state of greater than 11,000 people who need homes and we are trying to mitigate the problem,” she said. “We are trying to provide assistance for parents of children, young adults and adults who need a supportive independent place to live.”

However, residents were quick to point out that the K.I.D.S. Plus home would not be the first facility of its type in community.

“Within a half-mile of my home in any direction, and my neighbors as well, there are three group homes already — this would be a fourth,” said William Whitcomb, a Cuba Hill Road homeowner of 10 years. “Regardless of the nature of the residents, four is simply too much.”

Another major concern voiced repeatedly was the proposed size of the group home in comparison to the existing homes. Neighbors expressed fears that it would alter the area’s character, giving it a more commercial feel.

“The homes tend not to be very large; the properties are large, that’s why we like to live there,” said Taylor McLam, a Cuba Hill Road homeowner who said his residence is approximately 1,200 square feet by comparison. “Seven times the size of my house seems a little much.”

Jules Smilow, a resident of Darryl Lane, expressed sympathy, saying that a group home that was more commensurate in size to the existing residences would be more agreeable.

Many Greenlawn property owners, including Rebecca Gutierrez and Stephen Wuertz, pointed to the three existing group homes in the area with concerns of noise from handicapped transportation and delivery trucks, increased traffic and possible behavior incidents involving future residents.

“I think one of the things that is happening here is some people don’t know what disability looks like and what it is all about,” said George Wurzer, a licensed clinical social worker.

Wurzer said he operates a number of group homes for children diagnosed with autism. While many were met by resistance  from their surrounding communities at first, he said that over time there was more acceptance and the neighbors learned more about developmental disabilities from the experience.

“Tammie’s vision is the next evolutionary stage in helping people with disabilities,” Wurzer said.

Petrone admitted it was, in part, the town’s fault that residents did not have critical information to fairly evaluate the group home proposal. He directed Anthony Aloisio, the director of planning and environment, to arrange for a community meeting between residents and Topel.

Topel has posted a proposed blueprint of the building on the K.I.D.S. Plus Facebook page. There are several upcoming public meetings to provide those interested  with more information Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at Signature Premier Properties in East Northport, and Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at Cause Cafe in Fort Salonga.

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