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HUntington Harbor

More than $1 million in foundation renovations have been completed despite challenges

Huntington ligthhouse. Photo from Pam Setchell

The jewel of Huntington Harbor will be opening its doors to welcome visitors for the first time in more than two years.

The Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the structure, will offer its first tour of the lighthouse July 15 after completing $1.1 million in repairs. A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for July 11 to celebrate the structure’s reopening.

“It’s been a very long two years,” said Pamela Setchell, president of the preservation society. “We keep walking around pinching ourselves that we did it. We did it. We’re thrilled out of our minds.”

“We keep walking around pinching ourselves that we did it. We did it.”

– Pamela Setchell

Tours of the lighthouse will be offered by volunteers on a first-come, first-serve basis from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. once a month. Guests must be wearing flat, rubber-soled shoes to board the boat, according to Setchell.

The nonprofit organization last offered a tour of the historic landmark in September 2015 before the building was closed for phase one of restoration efforts to its exterior foundation. The lighthouse was in danger of becoming unstable and crumbling into the water.

Frank Scobbo, vice president of Port Washington-based Scobbo Foundation Systems, was hired as the contractor to shore up the 100-year-old structure.

“It was a labor of love, commitment and dedication to get the jewel of the harbor repaired,” Scobbo said.

He and his approximately 10-person staff took on the daunting task of replacing the damaged rebar, or steel reinforcement, in the lighthouse’s foundation, patching sheetrock and concrete in the underwater structure.

“The sheer location was one of the primary issues,” Scobbo said.

Working on a building located a mile offshore, the contractor said extensive pre-planning was necessary to account for the tides, currents and changing weather conditions each day. In 2016, a sudden squall sent waves crashing over the deck of a barge full of stone for the lighthouse’s base, causing it to take on water, according Scobbo. It required a rapid response of two Huntington Bay constables, Stephen Taylor and Timothy Lutz, and Scobbo’s crew to prevent the boat from sinking.

“It was a labor of love, commitment and dedication to get the jewel of the harbor repaired.”

– Frank Scobbo

“It was very scary, it probably took a couple of years off my life,” Scobbo said.

All supplies and equipment needed to be transported out via boat and a single forgotten item could have meant a 45-minute trip back to shore, according to the contractor. Scobbo said these challenges made the lighthouse’s restoration one of the most difficult projects he’s ever worked on, having previously repaired Stepping Stones Light in Nassau County and restored a 200-year-old Times Square building.

The Huntington Harbor Lighthouse still requires some additional work, according to the contractor, including the placement of more boulders on the east side of the structure and window replacements.

“They have a lot of work to do, but now the most important part is done,” Scobbo said.

The cost of the project was paid for through approximately $740,000 fundraised by the preservation society that was used to secure a matching $250,000 state grant, and a $145,000 grant received from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation in September 2017.

Those interested in taking a tour of Huntington Harbor Lighthouse can find a full list of tour dates on the preservation society’s website at www.huntingtonlighthouse.org/tours.php. Tickets cost $20 per adult, $15 for seniors and $10 for children age 5 or older, with family discounts available. Children younger than age 5 are not permitted due to safety issues and insurance concerns.

Huntington Harbormaster Fred Uvena gives a tour of accident-prone sites. Photo by Kyle Barr

Suffolk County Police Department’s Marine Bureau officers rescued two boaters who were stranded on the rocks at Huntington Lighthouse in Huntington Harbor.

The Huntington harbormaster requested assistance from Suffolk County Marine Bureau for a boat that had become lodged in the rocks by the Huntington Lighthouse June 17 at approximately 8 p.m. Marine Bureau officers Terence McGovern and Kevin Yoli responded aboard Marine Bravo.

The officers tied a line to the stern of the 38-foot sailboat in an attempt to free it. A boat from Sea Tow arrived and workers secured a second line to the mast of the boat and rolled it on its side allowing Marine Bravo to pull it away from the rocks to safety.

After the boat was freed from the rocks, officers did a visual inspection of the boat and conferred with the boat’s owner, Jorge Schneider, 71, of Huntington. It was determined the boat was undamaged and Schneider and a female passenger were unharmed. The pair remained aboard the sailboat and were escorted by Sea Tow to shore.

Huntington Harbormaster Fred Uvena gives a tour of accident-prone sites. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

As Huntington boat owners get ready to pull up anchor and head out for the start of the season, town officials and maritime police emphasizing boating safety and a plan to crack down on drunk boating.

“Across Long Island and the entire state, boating accidents and deaths have been increasing the last few years,“ Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “At the local level, the coast guard and the
local marine units have noticed fewer boaters wearing life jackets, and general inattention to the rules of the waterways.

Across Long Island and the entire state, boating accidents and deaths have been increasing the last few years.”
– Chad Lupinacci

Lupinacci was joined by Huntington Harbormaster Fred Uvena, members of the Huntington Bay Constable and members of the Suffolk County Marine Bureau at a May 24 press conference where they called for stricter enforcement of speed limits inside Huntington Harbor, awareness of small craft in local waters and a crackdown on boating while intoxicated.

In 2017, there were more than 650 deaths across the country involving boating incidents, according to a report by the U.S. Coast Guard. There were 19 fatal accidents, resulting in 22 deaths, and more than 70 people injured in New York. The overall number of boating-related deaths is less than in 2016, but still represents a general increase over the last few years. The report said that there were 12 boating accidents in the state in which alcohol was found to be a contributing factor, which resulted in one death and 16 injuries in 2017.

“When you come down and get in your boat, the biggest thing we emphasis is common sense,” Uvena said.

The harbormaster emphasized that every boat should have life jackets for every passenger, that boat owners should check their fuel, flares and radio when boarding and that those in charge of the boats should know not to drink and pilot their craft.

There are multiple high-risk areas across Huntington Harbor and all the way out into the entrance to Long Island Sound, according to Uvena, He pointed out that hot spots for incidents include the private beaches along the harbor that host many canoers, paddle boarders and other small craft. There are also the hazardous areas full of protruding rocks along the beach near Huntington Harbor Lighthouse and an area commonly called The Box close to the Northport Power Station.

When you come down and get in your boat, the biggest thing we emphasis is common sense.”
– Fred Uvena

Over the past five years, Uvena said he has seen incidents involving kayakers and paddle boarders increase along with the surge in these activities’ popularity in Huntington. The harbormaster said that they are so low to the water that boaters who fly too fast, too close to the shore have the possibility of clipping them or running over them completely. The U.S. Coast Guard’s statistics show that canoe and kayaks had the second highest total death count at 152 compared to 323 in open motorboat.

”Boaters need to take heed of their speed in the middle of the bay,” Uvena said.

The Harbormaster office is receiving new buoys that have LEDs built in to be more easily seen at night. Uvena expects to receive them by the end of the year, but as the boating season kicks off, the harbor constables can only advise boaters on the dangers of speeding in the harbor and of drinking and boating. Those individuals who are found guilty of boating while intoxicated can face stiff penalties. On the first offense, an individual can receive from a $300 to $500 fine and 15 days in jail; additional offenses result in harsher fines and longer jail time. However, under current law a boating while intoxicated charge does go on a driver’s license or go onto the pilot’s record like a driving while intoxicated in a car would.

Deer Park resident Gina Lieneck has firsthand experience with the potential dangers of boating. In August 2005, she and her family were spending the day tubing off the coast of Fire Island. They were heading back to Bay Shore Marina when out of the dark, another boat approached them from behind at top speed. Lieneck and her husband were severely injured by the boat and its propeller, but her 11-year-old daughter Brianna was killed where she was sitting on the starboard side.

“We need to make this change, and make it now.”
– Gina Lieneck

If a boater is born on or after May 1, 1996, they are required to have a safety certificate to operate a boat, otherwise there is no certificate or license required for any noncommercial boater in New York. Lieneck has been making the long trek to Albany every week for the past three months to lobby for Brianna’s Law, that would require all operators of power-driven boats to take an in-person boating safety class inside state coastal waters.

“We need to make this change, and make it now,” Lieneck said. “We’re not decreasing in accidents, we’re increasing, and we need to think about the safety of everybody on our waterways.”

Uvena said that approximately 300 people attended the three previous safety courses required for prospective boaters under the age of 21, but he said he supports a law that would require similar courses for older boaters. Lupinacci, who before becoming supervisor served as state assemblyman for New York’s 10th District, said he expects Brianna’s Law to get bipartisan support.

“It’s about time that things need to get done about boating safety,” Lupinacci said.

File photo

Police assisted a Commack man on Sunday afternoon after he could not get back onto his boat and was struggling in the water in the Long Island Sound, a mile and a half north of Eaton’s Neck Point.

At about 4:30 p.m. on July 12, police said Russell Giannotti and his wife Kim Giannotti anchored their boat to fish when their fishing line became tangled in the boat’s propeller. Giannotti, 63, went overboard to clear the tangled line. When he attempted get back on the boat, his boarding ladder broke and he became stranded in the water. His wife threw him a life jacket and a rope but he was unable to put the life jacket on while in the water — although he was able to hold on to it for flotation. The Commack resident ended up becoming entangled in the rescue rope and started to struggle in the water.

A passing boater observed Giannotti in distress and called 911. The boater was unable to assist due to choppy sea conditions, but was able to give the victim’s location to police dispatchers. Two Marine Bureau vessels, a Suffolk County Police helicopter, the U.S. Coast Guard and Huntington Harbormaster Marine 3 responded to the search area.

Marine Bureau Section Officers Christopher DeFeo and Anthony Sangimino responded in Marine Bravo and were the first rescuers on scene. They were directed to the victim’s location via Marine VHF radio by the nearby boater, and once they positioned their boat close to Russell, they threw him a life ring, and pulled him aboard the Marine Bravo. On board, the officers treated him for exposure and transported him to the Soundview Boat Ramp in Northport, where they were met by rescue personnel from the Northport Fire Department. Giannotti refused medical attention for exposure and minor abrasions.

Huntington Harbormaster Marine 3 took the victim’s boat in tow. The victim was eventually reunited with his boat and his wife, and both were able to return to Huntington Harbor, on their boat, without assistance.

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